Public approval of Congress sank to just 15 percent in the latest Gallup poll, but lawmakers are determined to find out how low they can go. That’s one explanation, at least, for all the unrelated junk they tossed into the massive pandemic-relief/government-funding bill.
The public fury is surely driven by the months-long standoff over passing any relief, even as key provisions of early stimulus bills were expiring.
And now this: a $2.3 trillion monstrosity that includes countless items that never would’ve passed on their own — 5,593 pages that members couldn’t possibly read before they had to vote on it, knowing it was a must-pass because of the desperately needed relief it contained.
Banning the mailing of e-cigarettes? Creating a felony for unauthorized streaming of copyrighted material?
Billions in foreign aid and loans, including $10 million for “gender programs” in Pakistan — in a bill that also replaced $600 supplemental unemployment payments with $300 ones? Americans will want to know why politicians’ pet projects took priority over the needs of a pandemic-plagued nation.
No matter that we favor a few of these stealth line-items — there’s so many that everyone can find something to like, but that doesn’t reduce the overall reek.
Fact is, this madness has become routine in year-end, don’t-let-the-government-shut-down “omnibus” measures. Worse, it’s plain that some members prefer things this way: For several years in recent Congresses, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t even try to pass most spending bills under normal procedure.
It’s easier to do your smelliest work when no one can possibly spot it in time.