Congresswoman Proposes an End to Legislative Pork

It’s the oldest trick in Washington: If you know that your pet legislation would never get passed on its own, simply attach it to a more popular bill and – voila – you have yourself a new law! It’s fairly dishonest, but it’s one of the main ways that politicians are able to get their controversial, often costly ideas to go into effect.

Fortunately, there are some lawmakers who want to do away with this loophole. This month, Representative Mia Love, a Republican from Utah, proposed H.R. 4335: One Subject at a Time Act. If passed, the bill would officially limit subsequent legislation to covering one subject at a time, therefore blocking lawmakers from trying to cram gratuitous amendments into unrelated bills.

“Congress is bundling too many things together,” said Rep. Love. “Each bill should stand or fall on its own merits.” Though Love has only been in office for a year, she has already made history as the first black female Republican to serve in Congress.

Love is a good person to champion the bill since she’s seen it work in the real world. Utah has a similar law in place, preventing legislators from adding unrelated topics into other bills. Moreover, Utah bills must clearly specify the subject at hand in its title, meaning no more misleading bills like the Patriot Act, the Internet Freedom Act or the Defense of Marriage Act. It all seems like a smart way to keep politics a little more honest.

That doesn’t mean D.C. politicians are going to go for it, though. Never mind the politicians who will oppose it because they’ve personally benefited from the existing loopholes, plenty of upright lawmakers aren’t going to be keen on this idea since it would inevitably require more work. Certainly, the process of voting on each topic one vote at a time would prove significantly more time consuming for members of Congress, but then, it is their job to vote on legislation.

It also doesn’t help that both major political parties participate in adding “pork” to bills that are considered “must-pass,” meaning that no one’s going to vote against multi-billion dollar budget proposals just because a politician snuck in $2 million for his town to have a government-funded water taxi service. In 2010, Business Insider ran through some of the most glaring examples of legislators who secured money for frivolous projects by tacking them on to larger spending bills.

Love is not the first person in Congress to advocate for this type of change. This past summer, Senator Rand Paul introduced “One Subject at a Time” legislation from his end in the Senate, though his bill never made it through committee. A noted advocate for political transparency, Paul believes that making bills one topic at a time will allow citizens to better understand what’s actually being voted on. Paul has also proposed the Read the Bills Act, which requires that the full text of a bill be posted for a full week before a vote can occur, and that legislators must swear that they read or listened to the bill in full before voting on it.

While Love has eleven cosponsors on her bill, none of them are Democrats. Despite this issue being nonpartisan in theory, it’s probably not something that liberals would push for while they’re in the minority in Congress. If lawmakers had to vote on each item in a budget separately, organizations like Planned Parenthood probably wouldn’t stand a chance, whereas Democrats can currently defend it as part of a bipartisan compromise in a larger spending bill.

As such, political analysts give the bill essentially no chance of passing. Maybe Love should try slipping H.R. 4335 into more popular legislation!

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

72 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

This would go a long way to provide some transparency in congress.
Edward A, she's not ugly, it's a very bad picture of her.

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Dianne D.
Dianne D2 years ago

it won't pass in a Republican congress but maybe when we get back to a Democratic and Independent congress, it'll have a chance.

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Marie W.
Marie W2 years ago

Good luck.

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Daniel Penisten
Daniel Penisten2 years ago

Its about time this proposal came into existence! But what has caught me by surprise, is that it was a Republican that proposed it. Could it be possible that this "Representative" really believes that this bill will die in committee? That it is just "window dressing"?

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Stephen Brian
Stephen Brian2 years ago

Compromises like those currently being done through combined bills can be maintained if the order of votes can be controlled. It would be a literal "Yo vote for mine and then I vote for yours", and it could work because while the people change, the parties in Congress remain the same and can hold grudges or demand "debts" from one set of compromises in another. Of course, all of that would require the American public to have a political memory of over a week, which it generally does not.

What this could force, however, is separate debate over each issue. That means slowing down government further, but it can also mean better accountability.

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Sara G.
Sara G2 years ago

I wish her luck, but unfortunately, the people who have to vote on it are politicians.

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Eric Lees
Eric Lees2 years ago

We the people can get them to pass the bill if we demand every member of Congress support it if they want our vote next time.

But like the Audit the FED bill anything that challenges their ability to wield power and those sell it will have an uphill battle.

Let the sunlight in, no more secrets, they work for we the people.

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Peggy B.
Peggy B2 years ago

I love the last paragraph of this article.

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Roslyn McBride
Roslyn M2 years ago

Noted

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