10,000 Bills Introduced in Congress, While Government Management Goes Neglected
Before leaving for its August recess last week, Congress saw the introduction of its 10,000th bill. Meanwhile, not a single one of the twelve annual bills that direct the government’s spending priorities in 2009 has passed the Senate and only one has passed the House. Congress is neglecting its basic responsibility to manage the federal government, and is instead churning out new legislation about everything under the sun.
The current Congress is on pace to easily beat the record 10,537 bills introduced in the 109th Congress. In the 109th (2005-2006), the 10,000th bill was introduced on September 18th, well after the August recess.
The number of bills introduced in each Congress has been rapidly increasing over the last twelve years. In the 104th Congress (1995-1996), there were 6,542 bills introduced. In the 105th (1997-1998), 7,529. The 106th (1999-2000), 107th (2001-2002), and 108th (2003-2004) saw bill introductions in the high 8,000s, and in the 109th (2005-2006), the number of bills first pierced through 10,000.
Yet, each year, Congress has failed to timely complete the annual appropriations process, which divides taxpayer dollars among different federal agencies and programs, guiding the government’s priorities.
The current 2008 fiscal year began on October 1, 2007, but Congress didn’t finish the spending process until nearly three months later, on December 26th. Congress didn’t finish work on the government’s priorities for fiscal 2007 until mid-February of that year, more than a third of the way through the fiscal year. Currently, congressional leaders may already be planning on letting the spending process collapse.
So what is Congress focused on instead? We’ve been cataloguing a few of them here.
Our “Jack of All Trades – Master of None” series has been listing bills where Congress is wandering away from the basic responsibilities of the federal government or into trivia. The latest example? A bill that would require the postal service to issue a commemorative postage stamp on the subject of inflammatory bowel disease.
Our “. . . and a Pony” series point out where Congress overpromises what it can do. There seem to be a lot in the area of health care these days. Health care for all Americans! – as if saying it confidently enough will make it so. Members of Congress should be getting back to basics and passing spending bills on time – not posturing or introducing fanciful bills.
A particularly annoying recent bill was introduced simply for political posturing. It would have moved the detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the grounds of the Supreme Court. This is not a Congress that takes its job seriously.
In case you’re curious, H.R. 6641 was the 10,000th bill introduced in the current Congress. (We didn’t count joint resolutions, concurrent resolutions, and all the rest). The bill would put small businesses in the queue for federal largesse if they’re in an area that has suffered a disaster. The bill was introduced by the five members of Congress representing Iowa. Y’know, the Iowa that just saw all the flooding. What the state lost in corn may be made up in pork.