What Else Is In Scott's Head?

The blog site for writer Scott C. Smith. Some observations on the world we live in and life in general. And maybe some politics.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Scott Talks Civics

In the upcoming weeks, the Bush administration plans on slamming John Kerry's voting record in the Senate. Bush and other members of his campaign team will make oblique references to Kerry's record, using language like "John Kerry voted X numbers of times against (subject)." Something like, "John Kerry voted 18 times against giving the military a pay raise." What the Bush campaign is counting on is American ignorance of the entire legistlative process. To say that John Kerry voted against a military pay raise isn't necessarily accurate; it may be the end result of the vote. I would guess most people imagine that in Congress a bill is introduced (2004 military pay raise) and that the members of Congress vote on this single issue. They don't. The process for getting a bill to a vote is a lengthy one, and along the way something simple becomes something complicated. Before I get to the serious information, I want to remind everyone of what they should remember from Saturday mornings spent watching cartoons as kids:

I'm just a bill
Yes, I'm only a bill
And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill
Well, it's a long, long journey
To the capital city
It's a long, long wait
While I'm sitting in committee
But I know I'll be a law some day
At least I hope and pray that I will
But today I am still just a bill.

Okay, the process is a bit more complicated, but still, Schoolhouse Rock did introduce the basics. Damn liberal television! Wanting kids to learn shit.

Personally, I like the Simpsons version better:

I'm an amendment-to-be
yes an amendment-to-be,
And I'm hoping that they'll ratify me.
There's a lot of flag-burners
Who have got too much freedom
I want to make it legal
For policemen to beat'em.
'Cause there's limits to our liberties
At least I hope and pray that there are
'Cause those liberal freaks go too far.

As a service to my readers -- and I'm assuming the majority of you already know this information (the right-wingers will be ignorant of the legislative process, as expected, since Sean Hannity doesn't go into that kind of detail), a brief overview of how a bill becomes law. I'll provide a link at the end to the detailed information.

-- Legislation is Introduced - Any member of the House or Senate can introduce a piece of legislation.
-- The bill is referred to the appropriate committee by the Speaker of the House or the presiding officer in the Senate.
-- The committee debates the merits of the bill, holds hearings, hears from subcommittees, and eventually the full committee votes.
-- The bill is further debated, marked-up with revisions and additions, changed, replaced or altered, depending on what action is taken (such as the addition of amendments).
-- Eventually the bill is added to the House Calendar or the Senate Legislative Calendar.
-- Congress debates the bill.
-- The bill will eventually reach the President, who can veto the bill or pass it.
-- Once the President signs off, the bill becomes law.

Now, that's a very basic version of what happens. It's still very complicated, and it's not a matter of Senators voting on one provision, such as a pay raise for the military.

You can click here to go to Project Vote Smart and read about the process in detail.

Remember, knowledge is power. If you know any right-wingers and they want to bring up Kerry's voting record, ask for specifics: when was the vote? What bill #? What amendments were added? Your right-wing "friend" will not know, of course, and they'll sputter impotently before saying that John Kerry is the most "liberal" member of the Senate, or some bullshit.

If you're really motivated, you can look up the actual votes from the Senate's web site. For fun, find the instances where Republicans also voted the same way Kerry did, and throw that in your right-wing friend's face.

Don't worry, I'll get back to my usual anti-American Bush-bashing soon.


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