Friday, April 28, 2006

I'm Just A Bill on Capitol Hill

Any fifth-grader who has taken Social Studies, or any kid who has watched the "I'm Just A Bill" segment on Schoolhouse Rock, would be able to tell you how a bill becomes a law in the United States: One House of Congress passes a bill, the other House passes the same bill, and then the President signs it into law. However, the Republican-controlled House would have you believe it no longer works that way. In February, President Bush signed a bill into law that had never officially passed the House.

The Republican-backed bill would cut nearly $40 billion over five years by reducing Medicaid rolls, raising work requirements for welfare, and trimming the student loan program. Some of these massive cuts would be realized by restricting Medicare payments for durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and oxygen tanks.

A clerical error caused the House to receive a different bill than the one that was passed by the Senate. With the mistaken change, the measure squeaked through the House, 216 to 214. After the mistake was revealed, Republican leaders decided that they didn't want to have another vote on the bill, so President Bush simply decided to sign the Senate version into law.

The issue could be simply resolved if the House were to vote again on the correct bill. However, with the midterm elections coming up, Republican leaders in the House are more than happy to sweep this whole issue under the carpet rather than making all these unpopular cuts center stage.

So, is that how things work in this country? Ignoring the Constitutionally-prescribed method of creating a law? Apparently it is when the Republicans control so many branches of government.