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Two Solutions to End Congressional Pork Barreling

Have you ever gone to the store with the intention of spending $50 but leave $120 later?  It’s those little things that get thrown into the cart that blow our budgets.  The same happens with riders in our legislative budgets. According to the United States Senate glossary, a rider is described as an “Informal term for a nongermane amendment to a bill or an amendment to an appropriation bill that changes the permanent law governing a program funded by the bill”.  Congresspeople create riders in nearly every piece of legislation. It’s a good way to save time and energy as receiving funding for these irrelevant issues and programs wouldn’t occur as an individual bill. When legislation is pending a deal is made to receive enough votes for it to pass.  Riders are part of the legislator’s deal to vote for a bill or ordinance.  It’s sounds great until you realize riders misdirect funding, needlessly increase funding and produce fruitless programs. 

Traffic is one of the most stressful issues for Americans.  Unbeknownst to many of us, heart attacks and panic attacks occur regularly in traffic jams.  Traffic in our Congressional halls is costing us billions.  In the Center Against Government Waste’s annual federal spending study, they found that earmarked legislation (riders) increased to 282 hidden requests in legislation with a total of $15.3 billion dollars.  That’s an increase of 21.6% from 2018. Washington DC’s WMATA received $30 million dollars for upgrades.  Yet, it’s one of the richest cities in our nation.  Why should they receive funding?  Politicians not only live there but their families and visitors use the train and bus system.  How many other states could use a $30 million dollar boost?  All of them.   

In 1996 President Clinton and Congress passed a Line Item Veto Act allowing presidential vetoes of pork-barreling items in federal legislation.  In 1998 the Supreme Court found the Act unconstitutional annulling the powerful use of passing legislation without the pork attached.  During those two years that Clinton used this power, he passed 11 budgets while cutting 82 pork-barrel projects. 

We have two options. The Supreme Court stated that there was a lack of separation of powers when Clinton vetoed certain bills since it’s the power of Congress to legislate. The new Line Item Veto Act would include three members of Congress during the line item veto session to suffice the legislator’s rule.  The president would veto the line items with the assistance of the Vice President as a representative of the Senate.  The VP votes in the Senate so he is, therefore, a legislator.  The House of Representatives would have a member from each party-the majority and minority (Whip) leaders.  The three of them would sign off on the line items together.  This ensures that legislators are present as the nullifying veto negotiators.  All parties are also represented. 

The second justification the Supreme Court used in striking down the original Line Item Veto Act was the president is not granted powers to enact, create or amend legislation.  But the president could enforce his ability to veto the pork-barreling through an Executive Order.  If the president were to choose which line items he would veto, he could use executive orders to eliminate these.  For example, a project for highway expansion in Minnesota is hidden in the budget.  He makes an executive order stating that no funding can be produced for this project.  Then the line item becomes null and void.  As the United States has grown, executive orders by presidents have become a third means of legislation.  Until We the People stop these executive orders we should use them to our advantage.

Image by dcandau from Pixabay 

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