Right now, as the country demands tougher restrictions on the credit card industry, and as the House has passed a much needed bill to that effect, the Senate has stalled the bill so as to piggyback amendments onto it. Now, we understand that that grouping together related laws saves time and allows for the deal making that is part and parcel to cooperation across the aisles. However, when the laws are totally unrelated, we are at odds to figure out just how this congressional procedure aids anyone.
The success of the credit card reform bill has prompted senators to attach their own pet projects to it. In one case, the senate is attempting to piggyback an amendment that allows people to carry firearms into national parks – sponsored by Tom Coburn (R-OK). Thus, this much needed credit card bill is being stalled because of something completely unrelated to it. Why is the Senate wasting time on irrelevant amendments when we are in the middle of an economic crisis which demands immediate legislative action?
This is a classic example of the danger of piggybacking. A ridiculously unrelated amendment is preventing speedy passage of a necessary credit card law. Is this bill still a credit card reform bill, for instance, or is it now about gun control? How should they debate on the senate floor? In this case, there is plenty of time for Congress to discuss and weigh the particulars, but when this same system comes up against a time limit, hurried politicians may pass seemingly innocuous laws with dire consequences. The Commodity Futures Modernization Act which enabled the CDS scandal, we may remember, was passed at the 11th hour without time for it to have even been read by those who voted on it. It was an amendment, like this gun legislation, that had nothing to do with the original bill and was simply tacked on to a popular bill.
Whatever benefits piggybacking offers, it’s time to recognize the excesses which it invites. The credit card reform bill is important legislation; the country needs it, and we can’t afford to wade through the various special interests who want to ride its popularity to the desk of the President. The piggybacking confuses whatever issues Congress needs to discuss about the bills its voting on by turning them into many headed bi-partisan concessionary maneuvers rather than honest attempts at solving a national problem.
If President Obama has learned anything about the dangers and inefficiencies of piggybacking we hope that he starts vetoing legislation that attempts to lump together unrelated issues.