The current economic crisis does seem to present a combination of circumstances (the housing crisis, a credit crisis, declining international trade, rising unemployment), some of which are causes, some of which are symptoms, none of which–of course–are particularly pleasant for those going through them. So how does Congress, legislatively, address new circumstances? Do members and their staffs (and the lobbyists whispering in their ears) craft bills to solve the problems at hand? Or do they go through their archives and relabel old bills as solutions to new problems?
Using the indispensable Govtrack.us, I’m going to look for antecedents of passages in the House version of the stimuls bill, using the full text of the bill, then searching prior Congresses for similar language.
For example, Sec. 1261 of the bill which “may be cited as the ‘Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2009,'” is actually the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007, which was introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman on March 15, 2007, long before the collapse of Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. In approaching the stimulus bill, did Congress craft new provisions to meet new circumstances? If not, can we trace the sponsors of the old ideas pressed into service to meet new circumstances? (Full disclosure in the nature of a statement against our interests: Sunlight is on the record supporting strong whistleblower protections in the stimulus, and elsewhere.)
Section 9301 of the House Bill, the “21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities,” was introduced by Rep. Ben Chandler as the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act on July 12, 2007, again well before the economic crisis–which the stimulus bill is supposed to mitigate–existed.
I wonder how many other passages there are like this in the House Bill, and in the Senate version as well.