By SHARON K. GILBERT
March 5, 2008
THIS IS how I spend my afternoons. After checking into White House ‘Executive Orders’ (no new ones lately — drat), I looked in on another favorite government site, the Library of Congress site, Thomas.
A quick survey of yesterday’s Congressional activity at Thomas reveals scintillating legislative tidbits that read like a civil service potboiler. That is, if all the servants do is boil a few pots.
Our well-paid congressmen and women, too busy to consider weightier matters and perhaps loathe to commit to paper individual opinions during an election year, approved Capitol rotunda memorials, National Women’s History Month, research into postpatrum depression (huh?); named and renamed various national parks, post offices; and even managed to tweak the IRS code once or twice. But among the long list of apparently mundane inanity, lingered a few not so insignificant items:
1. Overseas Private Investment Corporation Reauthorization Act — Of particular interest is the following paragraph:
Section 231(f) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2191(f)) is amended to read as follows:
`(f) to give preferential consideration to investment projects in less developed countries the governments of which are receptive to private enterprise, domestic and foreign, and to projects in countries the governments of which are willing and able to maintain conditions that enable private enterprise to make its full contribution to the development process;’.
The above open-ended language allows our government to hold up funds to any ‘less developed’ country that doesn’t keep us safe — in other words, we’ll show you how to become a democracy, complete with US bases and nuclear warheads. Ask any ‘Orange Revolution’ nation.
2. Amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to establish the House Ethics Commission. Am I imagining things, or doesn’t the House have an Ethics Committee? Why then does it need a ‘Commission’? Does one talk while the other acts? Does the House anticipate an impending need for a body to take action against offenders? Perhaps, post-election?
3. (Warning: Long Title) To amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to protect the health of susceptible populations, including pregnant women, infants, and children, by requiring a health advisory, drinking water standard, and reference concentration for trichloroethylene vapor intrusion, and for other purposes. (Yep, that’s the title) I always worry whenever Congress starts regulating drinking water — who gets to administer the new regs? How will this affect rural wells (on farms, etc.)? How much is it going to cost the water consumer for the added safety? Remember, you can live without food for weeks — but you can only survive three days without water, and the world’s supply of fresh water is rapidly diminishing (unless you’re Sun Myung Moon, but that’s another story).
4. Quite a number of bills to provide funding for lots of new construction at Holloman AFB in New Mexico, including: an Aerospace Ground Equipment Facility, a Flight Simulator Facility, additions and alterations to Aircraft Maintenance Units, construction of a Low Observable Composite Repair Facility, and additions and alterations to a Jet Engine Maintenance Shop. All of this could be because Holloman has retired the old F-117s and is switching to the sexy, new F-22s. The price tag for all the above is nearly $50M. Think of that while you fill out your taxes.
All just a typical day on the Hill, I guess. See how much any Jane or Joe can learn online? You, too, can keep up with Congress — no login required — at the Library of Congress Thomas Website. Enjoy! I know I do.