Author Topic: Legislative Riders  (Read 2350 times)

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Offline Yip

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Legislative Riders
« on: September 24, 2011, 04:54:17 am »
I'm pretty sure most of us can agree that riders are a bad thing. But I thought it'd be interesting to discuss them and what can we do to combat them?

[editted to fix link]
« Last Edit: September 24, 2011, 11:01:16 am by Vararam »

Offline Chiscringle

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Re: Legislative Riders
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2011, 07:24:04 am »
The SC may be willing to reconsider their stance on line-item vetoes when that wolf rally bill comes in front of them.  What Congress fails to realize is that the SC won't use judicial review on the bill, they'll use it on the clause stating they cannot use it.  That is, they'll leave the rest of the bill as is, but declare the clause unconstitutional.

In general there's only so much that can be done about riders in the US.  As long as Congress has all those rules stating that they have dignity and respect and all that stuff they don't actually have but only say they do, things like riders will exist.  I'm in favor of striking all the politeness rules from both houses and letting the representatives say what they like to each other and with interruptions.  If we're so free and big on saying whatever is on our minds, our representatives ought to be allowed to shout and call each other names on the floor.  It might alleviate some of the aggression so that they don't take it out of each others' hides in press conferences.  I'd much rather they do all that to each others' faces rather than complain to us about it.

It's not like riders can't be removed in committee.  That's what the committees are for, I thought.  It's just that they all use them and so none of the representatives want to lose that tool.
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Offline Kobuk

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Re: Legislative Riders
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2011, 08:22:07 am »
Your link isn't working.  :P
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Offline Old Rabbit

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Re: Legislative Riders
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2011, 11:29:22 am »
I suppose occasionally riders do some good. But if the voting age public
held our congress accountable for their voting record. Things like riders
and backdoor politics would be rare.

Government by the people only works well if the people are willing to get
involved. Otherwise the politicians run the government pretty much to 
suit them selves.

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Offline redyoshi49q

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Re: Legislative Riders
« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2011, 03:46:44 pm »
This is an issue that I've been thinking on for several years.  One thing that I've considered as a solution to this problem is a hard word limit on new bills that go through Congress (a 5000 word limit would be an example of such a length).  Ideally, the length would be short enough such that the average regular task in Congress could realistically be written as a single bill, but even if this was not the case, a proposed bill that needed more length could instead be introduced as two or even three bills that are collectively equivalent.

The previous statement creates the appearance that such a law would have no effect, but there are several reasons why this would be beneficial:

  • It creates a disincentive for large bills.  A 1,000,000 word bill under this system would have to be passed as 200 separate bills.  This in turn would require 200 bill proposals, 200 separate debate sessions, and 200 voting sessions.  This would take a lot of time, and this is time that the members of Congress are not spending on other bills or on their personal lives.  This artificial, time based throttling discourages excessively long bills from being passed, but it has progressively lesser effects on shorter bills.

  • It allows sufficient time for a realistic review of new bills, both from the perspective of the members of Congress and from the President's perspective.  When the bills that are being discussed are 5000 words or less, it is reasonable to expect that the members of Congress read the bill in its entirety before voting on it (this might take somewhere between 1/2 hour and 2 hours, depending on reading speed).  Though riders are still possible, they will therefore be more transparent to members of Congress (even if they are obfuscated, it will be apparent that the proposed bill contains obfuscated text).  Since there is an inherent delay in proposing and voting on a bill, even in the worst case scenario, Congress would have difficulties passing bills fast enough for the President to not have enough time to review each bill in its entirety.  Congress would have to pass multiple bills consecutively without reading any of them for days on end for this to be a possible issue, and even then, the President might start considering vetoing all incoming bills until Congress slowed down.  Therefore, the points of limited time and absurdly long bills is no longer a form of plausible deniability for passing bills with riders in them.

  • It makes it such that riders are proportionally larger in the bills they are a part of.  Consider a 1,000,000 word bill with a 500 word rider in it.  That rider is .005% of the entire bill.  From a Congressman's perspective, the bill could be argued as worth passing since it is 99.995% "good".  However, if the same 500 word rider had to be put into a 5000 word bill, it would comprise 10% of that bill, and there would only be 4500 words in the bill (90%) that were not a part of the rider.  There would be a greater chance of the Congressman seeing the bill as worth rejecting on the basis of a contained rider.

Are there any thoughts on this?  Any detriments or additional benefits that I have not yet thought of?

Another possible solution that I've considered for this problem is the creation of another medium for interstate level finances to benefit states, perhaps in a way that might not need the federal government to serve this role.  The very existence of pork (I consider this to consist of riders that fund financial endeavors with primary benefit that is not at the federal level) suggests that there is a demand for funding large state projects with finances that individual states cannot realistically procure, and that federal bills are presently the most readily available way to meed this demand.  I considered the possibility of an interstate borrowing system as a possible implementation of such a solution, but my thoughts on this subject (feasibility, benefits, detriments, etc.) are less refined.  Does this sound interesting to anybody else?

I suppose occasionally riders do some good.

Is there a specific example that you were thinking of when you said that?  Also, did you mean to say that some laws that are passed as riders are good on their own accord, or that the practice of passing laws as riders is occasionally beneficial, even if the laws themselves are not necessarily so?
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Offline Yip

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Re: Legislative Riders
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2011, 11:35:23 pm »
A length cap on bills does sound like it could potentially help. However, in some cases there are bills that are very time sensitive, and limiting the bill's length wouldn't help as much with keeping riders out of those.  As I understand, that was a big reason for Line Item Veto, though the Supreme Court ruled that unconstitutional.