AMATEUR CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT!

A lot of weird stuff happens when the Senate opens for amendments to the budget. Take health care. This, for instance, is an amendment by Jim DeMint declaring it against Senate rules "to consider any bill, joint resolution, amendment, motion, or conference report that eliminates the ability of Americans to keep their health plan or their choice of doctor (as determined by the Congressional Budget Office)." This was an amendment by John Ensign to "prohibit the use of data obtained from comparative effectiveness research to deny coverage of items or services under Federal health care programs." If Medicare discovered a drug was ineffective, in other words, it couldn't stop covering it. The amendment failed, but just barely. Ben Nelson voted for it. As, bizarrely, did Russ Feingold.

More worrying were the poison pills inserted to derail cap and trade. This is an amendment by John Thune to "require that [climate change] legislation does not increase electricity or gasoline prices." It passed. This is an amendment by John Ensign "to protect middle-income taxpayers from tax increases by providing a point of order against legislation that increase taxes on them, including taxes that arise, directly or indirectly, from Federal revenues derived from climate change or similar legislation." Italics mine. Again, it passed. This is an amendment by Chris Bond "to protect workers from significant job loss by providing a point of order against climate change or similar legislation that raises Federal revenues to such an extent that it causes significant job loss in manufacturing- or coal-dependent U.S. regions such as the Midwest, Great Plains or South." It passed.

You getting the picture? A lot of amendments were passed last night that substantially change the legislative landscape going forward. Most of them can be undone by a 60-vote majority. But even so. There are now an array of points of order and budgetary shackles on cap and trade that didn't exist two days ago. And there's a lot more here than I was able to dig up. I am, after all, but a man.

You, however, are many (and women!). So I'm hoping we can do some -- what's the buzzword for it? -- crowdsourcing. Here is the list of amendments that were voted on during the budget negotiations. Some have descriptions right there on the main page. Many more don't. But you can find out what those nameless, faceless amendments are by clicking through their name and into the Congressional Record transcript of the vote. I'd encourage readers -- and other bloggers, and their readers -- to go poke around in there and either e-mail me, or leave a comment, when they find pieces particularly worthy of attention. These amendment-o-ramas don't get a lot of coverage in the press because they happen fast and late and without much fanfare. But they're important.

The link again, is here. Go waste some time by helping democracy.

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