Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Quiet commercials, bed bugs and Chi Chi Rodriguez await Congress

Quiet commercials, bed bugs and Chi Chi Rodriguez await Congress

WASHINGTON — The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, aimed at lowering the volume on loud TV ads, appears headed for approval. But a bill seeking to squash another annoyance, the Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite Act, is likely to fail. And the sponsor of the All-American Flag Act must figure that the bill's name alone should ensure its success.

With time running out on the congressional session, lawmakers are scrambling to get hundreds of their pet bills across the finish line, competing for attention against headline-grabbing issues such as whether to extend the George W. Bush-era tax cuts or end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays and lesbians in the military.

If lawmakers fall short during the lame-duck session after the Nov. 2 election, they will be forced to start over next year, perhaps against longer odds — that is, if they are still in office.

The workaday legislation awaiting action seemingly covers everything under the sun — including the Solar Uniting Neighborhoods, or SUN, Act.

Golf-loving Rep. Joe Baca, D-San Bernadino, wants Congress to honor Chi Chi Rodriguez, who "will go down as one of the all-time greats in golf history," the congressman said when introducing legislation to recognize Rodriguez's charitable work.

And Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, hopes his flag act, requiring U.S. flags purchased by the federal government to be made in America, will be waved on to passage. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, bothered that some so venirs sold in the Capitol gift shop are made in China, is awaiting Senate action on her bill requiring that congressional office supplies be made in America.

These are "bills upon which the fate of the republic does not rest," said Rep. John Campbell, R-Newport Beach, sponsor of a bill to add more than 40 small rocks off the Orange County coast to the California Coastal National Monument. But he fretted that many of the bills dear to lawmakers, their constituents or politically important groups weren't given enough priority by congressional leaders.

Democratic House leaders blame the Senate, where more than 400 House-approved bills await action.

An exception is the popular and cleverly named CALM Act to end those loud TV commercials. Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, is confident of winning final approval for a measure that her staff says has generated more enthusiasm than anything she has sponsored during her 18 years in Congress.

The measure, which recently passed the Senate with a push by its lead sponsor there, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., would require the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the volume of television advertisements.

Many other measures appear doomed. Of the thousands of bills introduced every session, relatively few make it into law.

"It is frustrating," said Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Pasadena, co-sponsor of a bill to set up a national system for tracking arsonists, named the Managing Arson Through Criminal History, or MATCH, Act.

It passed the House in 2007 and 2009 with bipartisan support but has never come before the Senate. Schiff has no idea why, but said, “My strategy is just to persevere.”

Even the HAPPY Act, for Humanity and Pets Partnered through the Years, drew growls because the tax break it would give to pet owners would cost the U.S. Treasury.

Also drawing little notice in Congress is a universal bane: bed bugs. A bill to fund increased bed bug inspections never got a hearing, even though the proliferating pests have garnered national attention.

With Congress dealing with health care reform, offshore oil drilling legislation, food safety and climate change, “that doesn’t leave a lot of air in the room for bed bugs,” said Ken Willis, an aide to the sponsor, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.

Sometimes, passing a bill isn’t the point. Legislation can be introduced to call attention to a cause or give sponsors a way to show constituents or politically important groups they’re trying to do something about an issue they care about.

Whether a bill advances depends on a variety of factors, including whether it has broad support or, perhaps more important, the support of one person – the committee chairman.

It was no surprise that a Republican-sponsored bill to put Ronald Reagan on the $50 bill in place of Ulysses S. Grant never got a hearing before the committee chaired by Rep. Barney Frank, a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts.

Even broad support isn’t always enough. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has held up more than 100 bills – including measures sponsored by fellow Republicans – because of concern they will add to the federal budget deficit.

“We ought to be about creating confidence so people will invest in this country rather than continuing to undermine that confidence with superfluous, well-meaning bills that are put up for political purposes instead of addressing the real problems that are facing our country,” he recently said after objecting to a spate of bills, including the Shark Conservation Act.

Sourced By: Richard Simon
Los Angeles Times