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November 21, 2006

New Bill So Silly It Could Drive a Kid to Drink

Welcome to this latest edition of “Last Week in Congress.”

The “lame duck” Congress had a (thankfully) brief three-day session between Election Day and Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, they will resume next week.

The Senate was particularly inefficient, with only one bill passed. This was H.R. 5682, the 57-page United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act.

With one horrible exception, Congress mainly confined itself to housekeeping, making minor revisions to current bills and programs with unanimous or near-unanimous support. These included

:• H.R. 5855, the Financial Netting Improvements Act of 2006. 9 pages.

• H.R 6314, “to expand eligibility for the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program.” 6 pages.

• H.R. S. 819, the Pactola Reservoir Reallocation Authorization Act shifting construction costs in South Dakota“from irrigation purposes to municipal, industrial, and fish and wildlife purposes.” One page! Hurray! I hope everybody read this one.

• H.R. 3085 “To amend the National Trails System Act to update the feasibility and suitability study originally prepared for the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail and provide for the inclusion of new trail segments, land components, and campgrounds associated with that trail, and for other purposes.” This was only 2 pages, and it passed 382-3. The “no” votes were from Jeff Flake, Walter Jones, and Ron Paul. Because they often vote “no” when few others dare, they have some of the best track records in downsizing D.C.

Also of note was a 4-page bill to extend normal trade relations with Vietnam. The motion was to “suspend the rules and pass,” which requires a 2/3 vote. The motion failed as 2/3 wasn’t achieved, although a majority did vote for the bill.

From a Downsizer point of view, there isn’t too much to object to here. We don’t pick nits.

But the House did pass one bad bill. H.R. 864, the STOP Underage Drinking Act is 26 pages long. It would

:• Create an inter-agency committee to create even more government programs and policies;
• Look over the shoulder of states and give them “report cards” if they’re not draconian enough in enforcing their under-21 drinking laws;
• Fund anti-drinking propaganda commercials;
• Throw more money at colleges for anti-binge drinking programs;
• Fund “scientific” studies (to be used for political ends) on underage drinking.

We do not mean to downplay the seriousness of teenage alcohol abuse. But that’s different from teenage drinking. Where alcohol is prohibited, it becomes more alluring to young people who want the freedoms adults have. Moreover, because they’re prohibited even in adult company and with adult supervision, drinking is more likely to get out of hand. The law prevents parents and other adults from teaching kids to drink responsibly. Countries in Western Europe that are more permissive toward teenage drinking have far fewer incidents of abuse and of alcohol-related accidents and deaths.

Besides this, where in the Constitution is Congress empowered to finance anti-drinking programs? This is yet another instance of Congress ignoring the Tenth Amendment in our Bill of Rights, which states,

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

To see the specific bills and resolutions mentioned above, or to see how specific members of Congress voted, click here for the House and here for the Senate. Roll calls are listed in reverse chronological order. To find the number of pages of a bill, we use the GPO PDF Display of the bill’s text.

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