Our Error-Prone Congress
It all started when Congress passed the “_______Act of______.”
In their haste to get a bill passed and get out of town for the August (2010) recess, the House and Senate left blank the lines where they were supposed to give the common name for H.R. 1586, which became Public Law 111-226.
Now Congress has to go correct a few more boo-boos. Two bills the President signed into law last week fix errors that Congress put into recent new laws.
The first is Public Law 112-135, which makes a technical correction to Public Law 112-108. That law designated the post office at 115 4th Avenue Southwest in Ardmore, Oklahoma, as the “Specialist Micheal E. Phillips Post Office.”
It’s a nice commemoration, except that the post office in question is at 208 1st Avenue Southwest in Ardmore. Want directions? Here you go.
Here’s more about Phillips, who died in Iraq in 2008.
Public Law 112-122 is the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012. It extended through 2015 the authority of the Export-Import Bank of the United States to provide loans and insurance to finance exports of U.S. products and services. The federal government helps U.S. corporations trade overseas at a cost to your family of about $14.50 this time.
Some of the things U.S. companies trade overseas are called “dual-use technologies.” That is, they can be used for both civilian purposes and military purposes. We’re happy to see dual-use technologies used for good in civilian applications, but not to see them used by enemies of the United States in military applications. Remember our friend Micheal Phillips, who such things could endanger.
In 1994, Congress authorized the Ex-Im Bank to provide financing for the export of “nonlethal defense articles or services the primary end use of which will be for civilian purposes.” Dual-use technologies. That was in Public Law 103-428.
The Ex-Im bank’s authority to finance dual-use technology exports would expire on September 30, 1997.
Since then, Congress has extended that authority a couple of times. Public Law 109-438, for example, extended the authority to finance dual-use technology exports until September 30, 2011.
That deadline is coming up, so it’s time for another extension. Public Law 112-122 did that, changing the date in Public Law 109-438 until 2014. But the bill they were supposed to change the date in was the original one, Public Law 103-428. (Are you following all this?)
It doesn’t make a lot of difference, so far as we can tell. If you change the expiration date of a law by changing the expiration date in the law that previously changed the expiration date of the original law, that probably has the same legal effect of changing it in the original law. But it’s awfully, awfully confusing.
It’s not too much to ask, wanting our Congress to get things right the first time. They should treat the United States Code, their tributes to soldiers killed in action, and every last policy they put into law with enormous reverence and care. We are not seeing that in these two examples.
They may be small examples, but they may also be canaries in the coalmine. A signal that the Congress isn’t attending to its work as it should.