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Riding to the Rescue of the American People

July 16, 2010

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by Christina F. Jeffrey, Ph.D.

Congress needs to wake up and do something to show that it can govern itself. Such an effort might help renew confidence in the legislative branch.  A good place to begin reforming the Congress could be a move to end riders.  By using riders, that is by attaching unrelated bills or amendments to “have to pass” legislation, members of Congress essentially blackmail their colleagues into voting for pork, in order to fund programs that are favored by the majority. Congress badly needs a rule against riders.

South Carolina Tries

The South Carolina Constitution does not permit unrelated amendments, or so-called” bobtail” amendments.  Does this keep the General Assembly from practicing bobtailing? Of course not! Eternal vigilance is ever the price of freedom.  In 2007, Ed Sloan, a patriotic Greenville retiree, sued the legislature to force it to conform to the Constitution. At issue was a bill titled “Job Tax Credit,” which contained provisions about wine tastings and renewable energy development. But even as the Court was spanking the legislature, our representatives were busy writing yet another bill which defied the Constitution in exactly the same way – it had a bobtail attached to it.  The truth is, laws are just not self-enforcing, even Constitutional amendments do not enforce themselves, not as long as we are governed by human beings.

The Best Check on Elected Officials: Patriotic Voters

Therefore, it really does not matter if one applies laws, Constitutional Amendments or mere rules of the Congress, the ultimate enforcers are always going to be the voters, whether the offending government officials are in South Carolina or Washington D.C.  If the voters do not force legislators to abide by the rules, they won’t abide by the rules.

Unions Riding on the Backs of our Soldiers fighting in Afghanistan

On July 7. the U.S. House of Representatives added a bill (essentially a rider) to a military appropriations bill for the war in Afghanistan, the so-called “Police and Firefighter Monopoly Bargaining Bill.”  This bill, if approved by the Senate, could effectively place every police officer and firefighter in the country under union boss control, cast aside our state Right to Work laws and override state and local labor laws. It will certainly lead to enormous state and local tax hikes.

So what exactly does this bill have to do with military funding?  Nothing except the fact that our soldiers on the ground need weapons, salaries, etc., and union supporters are willing to hold them hostage while pushing their agendas.

How can this effort be stopped?   Either 51 senators have to vote against the bill or 40 senators have to support a filibuster.  Since it is attached to a  much-needed military appropriation, most congressmen will vote for it. This is clever, but wicked.

State Budgets to Explode

States and communities across the country are already struggling to cut budgets – this bill will bust them all.  A day of reckoning is coming, and the unions want every congressman to feel the same pressure to bail out the public service unions, just like they bailed out the car-maker unions. Because this bill will create more public service bargaining units, it will put more pressure on all the members to vote for pension bailouts.

Tea Party Power and the Power of the Ballot

My friends, the Tea Party Movement is about forcing elected officials to listen to us, to follow our laws and Constitutions and do the right thing. No matter what the pundits say, this movement is not a populist movement in the European tradition, seeking as the French Revolution did, to overthrow, imprison, and kill the old regime and redistribute their wealth. Rather, it is populist in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. American populists do not seek to take their opponents’ property and redistribute it. They merely want an equal chance to earn their own property and protect it from excessive regulation and confiscatory taxation.

How to End the Rider Habit

There are many ways to end riders, but the easiest would be for Congress to pass Senate and House rules against such practices. The hard part is enforcing the rules – that is the job of We the People using our power at the polls.

Candidates for Congress should be asked their positions on riders. Those who promise to end such practices should be held to their word; those who resist supporting such commonsense reform, should be inundated with emails and faxes from “We the People” and if stubbornly resistant to our pleas, shunned at the ballot box.

The Failure of Political Parties

It is not just politicians who are responsible for such bad practices as “riders” on bills, it is also our Party leaders who do not hold the politicians’ feet to the fire, but instead just want to bask in the reflective and warming glow of the incumbents’ fires.

Party leaders should be leading activists but are often politicians in waiting or groupies drawn to power. Therefore, we should not wait until we have a chance to pass resolutions at Party conventions, where the best ones are just ignored, but we should work on our issues all the time. Obama, Michelle, Bill Ayers, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are vigilant for their issues as are their supporters.  As it happens, many Republicans are now unemployed and have the same kind of time as full-time community organizers.  Maybe we should make hay while this strange sun shines. Contact your U.S. Senators, congressman and/or congressional candidate, and ask them to promise you they will vote against any bill containing a rider and suggest they start with the military appropriations bill.  Don’t worry, if enough Senators vote against it,  another version will fly through both Houses. After all, it’s a “have to pass” piece of legislation.  Our representatives should not let themselves be blackmailed norshould they attempt to blackmail others.  The evil practice perpetuates itself.


Dr. Christina Jeffrey enjoys teaching courses on Health Care Management (Capella University), Foundations of American Government (Wofford College) and Research Methods (Lander University) and more when invited to do so. Recently, she was the first to announce against Congressman Bob Inglis in the just-concluded 4th district Republican Primary Contest. Both lost to a third candidate, Trey Gowdy.v

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