I'm from Missouri

This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Amendments and reports of Congressional bills

As we all know, a particular bill's Senate and House versions that are initially passed by the two chambers are not always the same. A conference committee consisting of members are both chambers then irons out the differences between the two versions to prepare a final joint version.

The Senate passed the "teach the controversy" Santorum Amendment by an overwhelming majority of 91-8, but the House version of the bill that eventually was named the "No Child Left Behind Act" did not have any counterpart. Despite the Senate's overwhelming approval of the amendment, the conferees amazingly decided to relegate the amendment by just putting a modified version of it in the House-Senate conference report accompanying the bill. So a handful of arrogant conferees sabotaged an overwhelming Senate majority's wishes to have the amendment in the final bill. The House members were also disfranchised because they were denied an opportunity to vote on the amendment. IMO an amendment that was passed by one Congressional chamber but not voted on by the other should be put to a vote in the other chamber when reconciling different House and Senate versions of a bill. Also, IMO any distinct difference between the two bills that is not an amendment should also be voted on by both chambers of Congress.

As I previously indicated, court decisions -- e.g., Blum v. Stenson -- are often wholly or partly based on the Congressional reports that accompany laws. IMO, Congressional reports accompanying laws should never be considered legally binding but should be considered to be only explanatory and -- at most -- advisory. In Blum v. Stenson, court opinions cited by a Senate report -- and not even the report itself -- were the sole basis of a Supreme Court ruling that plaintiffs' attorney fee awards in civil rights cases should not be reduced on the grounds that the legal representation is from a non-profit organization (this ruling probably also applies to legal representation that is initially pro bono). These Congressional reports can be abused by members of Congress to insert potentially legally binding "jokers" into legislation without the approval of the full Senate and the full House. Justice Scalia in particular is opposed to relying on legislative histories -- including Congressional reports -- of laws. I used to think of that as a crackpot position but I now agree with him.

An example of reports that are just explanatory are the reports accompanying federal auto-emissions control laws. These reports said,

(1) Because of the high mobility of motor vehicles (and also the high mobility of air pollution, I might add), national auto-emissions standards are needed.

(2) Having federal pre-emption of emissions standards relieves automakers of the burden of having to satisfy many different state standards and also prevents states from imposing unreasonably stringent auto-emissions standards.

(3) EPA has power to grant waivers of federal pre-emption to California in order to help give that state faster relief from horrendous air pollution while at the same time using that state as a testing area for new emissions-control technologies.
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8 Comments:

Anonymous Garfunkle said...

>IMO an amendment that was passed by one Congressional chamber but not voted on by the other should be put to a vote in the other chamber when reconciling different House and Senate versions of a bill.<

If every crazy law passed by one chamber was put up for a vote in the other before reconciling different versions, there would be total gridlock.

Remarkably many senators have put forward laws to please their constituents only after being assured that they will be voted down.

Monday, July 16, 2007 7:25:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

>>>>>> If every crazy law passed by one chamber was put up for a vote in the other before reconciling different versions, there would be total gridlock. <<<<<<

I am not talking about "every crazy law" passed by one chamber being put up for a vote in the other chamber -- I am only talking about full House or full Senate votes being taken to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of a bill when creating a joint bill. For example, I am not saying that the Senate should have been required to vote last year on that anti-ripoff bill -- i.e., the bill to bar plaintiffs' attorney fee awards in establishment clause cases -- that passed the House. As it turned out, the decision to put a modified Santorum Amendment in the conference report was made by just a handful of conferees -- are you saying that was better than having the full House vote on the amendment? As I said, the courts often give a hell of a lot of weight to Congressional reports.

>>>>>> Remarkably many senators have put forward laws to please their constituents only after being assured that they will be voted down. <<<<<<

That's ridiculous -- legislators are going to be blamed for introducing laws whether or not those laws are voted down.

Monday, July 16, 2007 8:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

My reply seems to have disappeared. If it doesn't show up again I will repost it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 7:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

I will give Larry the benefit of the doubt and believe that it was a site problem that dropped my previous post.

> are you saying that was better than having the full House vote on the amendment <

I would guess he is. There is no reason to have each chamber vote on everything put forth by the other. It doesn't take much of a brain (more than yours, evidently) to see what the result of this would be. Among other things there would be a rush by both chambers to get half-baked legislation out before the other.

>>>>>> Remarkably many senators have put forward laws to please their constituents only after being assured that they will be voted down. <<<<<<

> That's ridiculous -- legislators are going to be blamed for introducing laws whether or not those laws are voted down. <

Over your head, as usual. The benefits to the legislator are obvious. I have heard of this also. A year or two ago I remember a senator complaining that he had been stabbed in the back by people who had promised to vote against his proposal. When he saw that it was passing, he tried to withdraw it but was unsuccessful.

I don't remember the specific case to give you a reference so you can continue to believe that this does not happen, and that the Earth is flat, and that the Moon landings were faked, and that meteors come from inside the atmosphere, and that there was no holocaust and the rest of the things that fly around in that hollow orb above your shoulders.

The reasons for this sort of chicanery are obvious. One gets the benefit of appearing to pander to a constituent group by introducing legislation that they themselves do not believe in.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 9:12:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

>>>>>> are you saying that was better than having the full House vote on the amendment <

I would guess he is. There is no reason to have each chamber vote on everything put forth by the other. <<<<<<

As I indicated, instead of having both chambers or even one chamber vote on a particular amendment, members of Congress can simply insert the amendment into a Congressional report as a potentially legally binding "joker." As I said, the courts give great weight to Congressional reports -- look at Blum v. Stenson. As I pointed out, Judge Alex Kozinski said in a speech,

Scalia has already had a major impact on the way courts look at legislative history. As we all know, and as we will discuss further tomorrow morning, Scalia takes a rather extreme view of the matter -- he refuses to look at it at all because he considers it irrelevant and unreliable: It is irrelevant because Congress passes laws, not legislative histories -- the law is what is written, not what some congressman said on the stump; and it is unreliable because congressmen knowingly litter the record with comments saying one thing or another about the meaning of the bill in the hopes that some unwary Supreme Court justice will glom on to their viewpoint, whether or not it truly represents an issue Congress had considered or decided.


>>>>> It doesn't take much of a brain (more than yours, evidently) to see what the result of this would be. Among other things there would be a rush by both chambers to get half-baked legislation out before the other. <<<<<<

It wouldn't do a chamber any good to try to get out "half-baked" legislation before the other chamber, dunghill, because there is no conference on creating a joint bill until after both chambers have passed similar bills.

>>>>>> A year or two ago I remember a senator complaining that he had been stabbed in the back by people who had promised to vote against his proposal. When he saw that it was passing, he tried to withdraw it but was unsuccessful. <<<<<

Well, that senator really made himself look foolish by trying to withdraw his proposed legislation in the middle of a vote. I can just picture the guy running up there, waving his arms and shouting, "no,no,no -- please stop -- I didn't really mean it -- I was just pandering to some of my constituents." LOL. LMAO. RFLMAO. Please stop -- you're going to make me die laughing -- is that what you are trying to do? Anyway, I believe that most complete bills (as opposed to amendments to bills) have co-sponsors, so he was also trying to pull the rug out from underneath the legislation's co-sponsors if he had any. Even if he felt stabbed in the back, he should have kept his big mouth shut because he only made himself look worse by trying to withdraw the legislation.

>>>>>>> I don't remember the specific case to give you a reference so you can continue to believe that this does not happen <<<<<<<

Your problem is that you believe everything you hear that is consistent with your misguided beliefs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 11:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Bill Carter said...

> It wouldn't do a chamber any good to try to get out "half-baked" legislation before the other chamber, dunghill, because there is no conference on creating a joint bill until after both chambers have passed similar bills. <

It seems that this is what you are recommending they do. It is like the Oklahoma law that prescribes "If two trains are coming together on the same track they most both stop and wait until the other has passed."

> Well, that senator really made himself look foolish by trying to withdraw his proposed legislation in the middle of a vote. <

He did look foolish. Looking foolish is nothing new for legislators. One complained about daylight savings time causing curtains to age faster. The entire Indiana Legislature once passed a resolution setting pi equal to 9xsqrt3 or about 16! It would be more shocking to see a legislative body do something sensible.

> I believe that most complete bills (as opposed to amendments to bills) have co-sponsors, <

Who will play the same game, but a lot of legislation does not have co-sponsors.

> Even if he felt stabbed in the back, he should have kept his big mouth shut because he only made himself look worse by trying to withdraw the legislation. <

He should have, but he didn't.

> Your problem is that you believe everything you hear that is consistent with your misguided beliefs. <

I remember this case. If you read newspapers you would remember it too. Your problem is that you don't believe anything you hear that is not consistent with your misguided beliefs.

I would bother to look up the case but you still haven't admitted your error over the WSJ article so it would be a waste of time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 3:52:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

>>>>>> It is like the Oklahoma law that prescribes "If two trains are coming together on the same track they most both stop and wait until the other has passed." <<<<<<<

There is no analogy here -- the two chambers of Congress are on separate tracks.

>>>>> I believe that most complete bills (as opposed to amendments to bills) have co-sponsors, <

Who will play the same game, but a lot of legislation does not have co-sponsors. <<<<<<

Amendments to bills might not have co-sponsors, but I really think that a complete bill does not have much chance of passing without co-sponsors. S 3696, last year's Senate bill to bar plaintiffs' attorney fee awards in establishment clause cases, had 20 co-sponsors plus a sponsor but was not even voted on in committee. The House counterpart passed the full House by a wide margin.


>>>>> I would bother to look up the case but you still haven't admitted your error over the WSJ article so it would be a waste of time. <<<<<<

What in hell does the WSJ article have to do with this story about a senator? Anyway, I made no error. I was told the article was in "today's" (then Saturday's, or the Weekend edition) WSJ and was later told that it was in Thursday's.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 7:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

> There is no analogy here -- the two chambers of Congress are on separate tracks. <

You can't be that dumb! Is there anything that doesn't go right over your head? Carter was obviously just trying to show the sort of idiocy that comes out of legislators. You showed the idiocy that comes out of some bloggers.

> I really think that a complete bill does not have much chance of passing without co-sponsors. <

Do you have any statistics on this?

> What in hell does the WSJ article have to do with this story about a senator? <

You brayed for days questioning the existence of an article that was available to anyone who wanted to check.

> Anyway, I made no error. <

You based all sorts of false conclusions on the idea that the TOC on the free site was all inclusive.

> I was told the article was in "today's" (then Saturday's, or the Weekend edition) WSJ and was later told that it was in Thursday's. <

That is of no importance. It has no connection to your antics that followed mention of the article. You are pettifogging, as usual.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 8:30:00 PM  

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