adding last second addendums to laws in congress

Sorry for my ignorance on these matters, but hence the question here.

What’s the situation with laws getting hammererd out in Congress, only to have last-second revisions thrown in that have nothing to do with the laws? Like a port security bill that is ready for voting when someone decides to just add a “no internet gambling” addendum to it, which then passes without any discussion or revisions.

First, how the hell is this still allowed?

Has anyone tried to stop it?

And if it’s that easy to do, why doesn’t the minority party use it on a regular basis to, say, throw in items that would never pass the majority vote?

It seems to me like a disgusting and underhanded technique, and I’m amazed it hasn’t been outlawed in Congress. Want to pass an anti internet gambling law? Then put it up for a vote, don’t add it to a port security legislation piece.

Just using that as an example. Is the only reason this is still around due to all politicians wanting to be able to add pork to their home states?

Last-minute addenda or “riders” aren’t unusual in Congress, but if it happens too late in the session, there isn’t time to have the other house pass the same bill, and it will die. Both houses of Congress must pass completely identical bills before the measure is sent to the President for his signature or veto.

Unrelated riders, or omnibus bills with so much packed into it that no individual legislator can possibly read it all, or logrolling bills that are loaded with a little something (Federal dollars for highway construction, a very narrowly-crafted tax loophole, a new post office, etc.) are common methods to get a bill passed that probably wouldn’t pass the smell test if each component of it was introduced and debated separately.

Why does it happen? Because it does what it’s intended to do, more often than not; because it’s not prohibited by the U.S. Constitution; because each party has occasion to make use of those methods, and no party is in the minority forever; and because any change to the House or Senate rules could be waived or changed back if the majority thought the stakes were high enough for any particular bill.

There have been recurring efforts to “fix” Congress, but there are usually entrenched interests in both parties’ leadership who prefer the current system to any suggested change.

Basically, because there’s nothing that says they can’t do it. Congress has the power to legislate and they have the power to decide how they’re going to go about it.

Because, especially in the House of Representatives, the majority party makes the rules and decides when and how amendments will be voted on. Whenever a minority member proposes amendments, all the majority has to do is ask for a roll-call vote to disallow all further amendments.

If such an amendment goes through – especially without a roll-call vote – it means no member objected to it. If nobody objects, why should it be disgusting and underhanded?

Why would you amazed? Surely you can see that any member of Congress sees how preserving such opportunities is to each of their advantage, individually.

As I said, the majority could decide to make that rule for that particular piece of legislation. They obviously didn’t want to.

That’s not the only reason. Not all legislation is about pork; there are sometimes substantive agendas that individual members believe in sincerely that don’t have anything to do with bringing money into their districts and they can see that making such a rule would reduce their flexibility in getting what they want.

Nope, you’ve also got yer culture war reasons:

There are more ways to a constituent’s heart than mere pork.

It is how they give themselves pay raises and pass the pork around.

You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours is a pretty well understood modus operandi.

To clarify a bit on Elenil’s Heir’s excellent post, the last minute riders that get stuck on bills are usually added by the conference committee. The conference committee is composed of House and Senate members appointed by their body’s leadership to hammer out the differences between the House and Senate versions of a bill. While they’re supposed to just resolve points of difference on issues relevant to the bill, the conferees often take the opportunity to add completely extraneous provisions.

The beauty of this from a Congressional perspective is that the conference report that the committee produces cannot be amended by either chamber, and cannot be filibustered in the Senate. So Senators and Congressman are forced to vote up-or-down on the entire report, which will contain plenty of goodies for plenty of members.

It’s an ugly way of doing things, but it works.

Eegads, politics is a dirty business. Thanks for the posts, everyone.