Sweeten it, but don’t read it

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After passing the cap and trade bill in rush, we are beginning to see what was included in the last hours prior to the vote. According to the Washington Times, the final 300 page amendment to the 1,200 page bill appears to have been filled with sweeteners for wavering congressmen.

The Washington Times reported on the actual contents of the cap and trade manager’s amendment — those 300 pages that dropped at the last second — and found a sweetener for one lawmaker likely aimed at enticing her to vote for the bill. The bill contained a nearly unintelligable section creating a federally authorized power administration with $3.5 billion in funds to distribute to renewable energy and development projects in Ohio. The power administration was championed by Rep. Marcy Kaptur and its last minute inclusion likely helped obtain her vote and other wavering lawmakers from Ohio.

We have little idea how many sweeteners were added into the 300 page manager’s amendment and it is very difficult to determine due to the obscure language used in the amendment. Take, for example, the language of the Kaptur power administration:

SEC. 199. DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION FOR RENEWABLE

POWER BORROWING AUTHORITY. (a) DETERMINATION.—No later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Energy, in coordination with the Secretary of Commerce, shall—

(1) determine any geographic area within the contiguous United States that lacks a Federal power marketing agency; (2) develop a plan or criteria for the geographic areas identified in paragraph (1) regarding invest- ment in renewable energy and associated infrastruc- ture within an area identified in paragraph (1); and (3) identify any Federal agency within an area in paragraph (1) that has, or could develop, the abil- ity to facilitate the investment in paragraph (2).

(b) REPORT.—The Secretary of Energy, in coordina- tion with the Secretary of Commerce, shall provide the de- terminations made under subsection (a) to the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representa- tives. (c) ESTABLISHMENT.—Based upon the determina- tions made pursuant to subsection (a), the Secretary of Energy, in coordination with the Secretary of Commerce, shall recommend to the Committee on Energy and Com- merce of the House of Representatives the establishment of any new Federal lending authority, including authoriza- tion of additional lending authority for existing Federal agencies, not to exceed $3,500,000,000 per geographic area identified in subsection (a)(1).

(d) AUTHORIZATION.—$25,000,000 is authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2010 to carry out the provi- sions of this section.

Now for those looking to see how the last minute changes affect voting behavior, this kind of language isn’t helpful at all. There are even more obscure sections of the bill that could contain vote-getting sweeteners. Not that I’m advocating for plain language bills or anything (laws are written in legal language for a reason), but the language in this amendment is particularly — and likely intentionally — obtuse.

Of course, one of the biggest problems is that we were given under 24 hours to read these 300 pages of obscure language. So, we are brought reporting after the bill is passed teasing out the actual contents, which appear to include vote-attracting sweeteners. No one could have realistically known what was in the bill, and inserted for whom, before the vote took place.

If you want to see if you can find these sweeteners, please have at it. I spent a good amount of time reading the bill last week (what a concept) and wouldn’t mind some help pulling out the choice sections that were inserted to gain specific votes. Here’s the pdf. Let me know what you find in the comments. And don’t forget to tell your congressman to Read the Bill in the future.

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  • JohnR

    This bill barely passed in the House…that’s how bad and controversial it is. All the pundits are predicting it will have a much tougher time in the Senate.

    My prediction is that Obama will try to gain votes by advocating a major investment in nuclear power. After all, it’s clean and cheap and we have the technology NOW. The only people opposed are the most radical fringe of the secular environmentalists.

  • JohnR

    How do you sweeten a turd?

  • John Thacker

    “Anyway, given the way the article was written I was actually stunned after reading the text that OH wasn’t specifically called out.”

    Because it’s written in such a way so as to not actually call out a site, but so that only one site possibly qualifies. A similar amendment provides funds for the FutureGen project in Mattoon, IL: the amendment is written in such a way so that it doesn’t call out FutureGen specifically, but it’s also written so that only FutureGen applies.

    In a way, such amendments are even worse for transparency, because a casual observer reading them would have no idea that only one pre-determined project actually qualifies for the money.

  • Jay

    As an aside,
    There aren’t really that many PMA’s for the Department of Energy (I know of 3 off the top of my head and think maybe 6-8 total).

    Anyway, given the way the article was written I was actually stunned after reading the text that OH wasn’t specifically called out.

    I don’t think it’s all that strange that someone championing a cause stuck by their guns (i.e. didn’t support the bill) until something they were passionate about got included.

    I’m not disputing that it did or did not entice Rep. Kaptur, and it wouldn’t shock me if greed & special interests were afoot, but I know the PMA’s actually generate revenue for DOE, i.e. the US Gov.

    So this inclusion might not actually be “all bad” but I admit it might not be “all good” either, which further supports the need for us to be able to have the conversation before it’s passed!