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CRS Report: 94% of Senate Bills Passed in Secret

July 24, 2008

CRS Report: 94% of Senate Bills Passed in Secret

855 bills have passed the Senate with no debate, no amendments, no votes

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) and Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) released a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) finding that 94 percent of bills the Senate has passed in the 110th Congress have been without a vote, debate or a single amendment. The 855 bills that have been secretly passed spend more than $9 billion, though a final total is not available because many of the bills were rushed through before a cost analysis could be performed.

Senator DeMint: “It would surprise many Americans to learn that the ‘World’s Greatest Deliberative Body’ passes the overwhelming majority of legislation without any debate at all. Democrats think they are entitled to pass bills without debate or votes, and they’ve tried to ram them through right before recess to pressure us to give up. But, Senators shouldn’t fear debate on these important bills. It’s in the best traditions of our republic to demand the Senate actually do its job and have a public debate on bills that expand government and increase the burden on taxpayers. Senator Reid can complain all he wants, but Republicans represent millions of Americans whose voices are being silenced by Democrat strong-arm tactics.”

Dr. Coburn: “The U.S. Senate has a nine percent approval rating because the American people believe that much of our work is done in secret with no debate, no transparency and no accountability.  This report shows that the reality is worse than the public’s fears.  Instead of encouraging open debate, I’m disappointed that Majority Leader Reid often chooses secrecy or demagoguery.  For instance, he has depicted my effort to reduce the number of bills that pass the Senate in secret by ten percent as ‘unprecedented obstruction.’  What is unprecedented and ahistorical, however, is the Majority Leader’s view that Senators should have a king-like right to pass massive spending bills in secret with no debate, no amendments and no recorded vote.”

The CRS report states, “[T]he vast majority of measures passed or agreed to by the Senate so far in the 110th Congress have not received formal parliamentary debate on the floor of the Senate.” This practice, known as “hotlining,” has traditionally been reserved for noncontroversial bills with little to no cost to the taxpayer, like the naming of post offices. However, the practice has been abused to sneak through large bills that cost the taxpayers billions of dollars and have significant policy implications.

On March 3, 2008, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin stated on the Senate Floor:

“My good friend, the late Congressman from Oklahoma, Mike Synar, used to say: If you don’t want to fight fires, don’t be a firefighter. If you don’t want to stop crime, don’t be a policeman, and if you don’t want to vote on tough issues, don’t run for Congress.”

“I agree with him. I don’t like facing tough votes, but it is a part of the job. You ought to at least have enough confidence in your beliefs to cast that vote and go home and explain it.”

Highlights from the Congressional Research Service Memorandum –  “The Clearance Process in the Senate and Measures Approved in the 110th Congress through June 30, 2008”:

“Nearly every day the Senate is in session, the majority and minority leaders consult to identify bills and resolutions that have been “cleared” by the Senators in both parties.  A measure is considered cleared if no Senator has informed party leadership … that he or she is opposed to passage of the measure without debate.”

•       Only 56 bills (6%) were passed by vote (53 by roll call vote, 3 by voice vote)

•       855 bills (94%) were passed by Unanimous Consent (no debate, no vote)

o        388 were passed by UC on the same day they were introduced

o        381 were passed by UC without debate

o        88 were passed by UC with some debate

o        9 were passed by UC without debate after debate on a Senate companion bill

•       35% of the bills passed by UC were agreed to in the week before a recess

•       52% of the bills passed by UC were agreed to during the two weeks before a recess


10 Comments leave one →
  1. linda permalink
    July 24, 2008 6:55 pm

    Where can I obtain a list of bills passed by congress this year.

  2. Robert Kershey permalink
    July 24, 2008 7:06 pm

    I would like to find out what bills were introduced who introduced them, and which congressmen voted for or against them. Where is it published? Why is it secret? It will be no secret come this November when I cast my vote against anyone presently holding office.

  3. Frank Livingston permalink
    July 25, 2008 6:27 am

    If you would like to see how much our politicians have promised today for our children and grandchildren to pay tomorrow, go to Truth in 2008 and watch the amount go up. We now owe $56 trillion, 485, 815 million dollars in debt.
    We need to change leadership in the Republican side of the senate and my vote is for Sen. DeMint and Sen. Coburn. We need a leadership change in the House also and it needs to be a conservative.

  4. July 29, 2008 2:20 am

    This is truly outrageous. But these Republican Senators complaining about it don’t have the guts to stand up for real change. If they are serious, they should start a filibuster. They should boycott the proceedings, go on a hunger strike, stage a sit-in at the majority leader’s office. Any of those kind of tactics would get the public’s attention, and force change, because the status quo reality is so embarrassing and shameful that if the public were ever made to understand what is going on, everyone would see that the defenders of these undemocratic practices don’t have a leg to stand on. The Republicans have engaged in plenty of similar corrupt practices of their own, so they aren’t really interested in nailing anyone to the wall on this. The reality is that the leadership of both parties are mainly interested in staying in power and continuing to spend the peoples’ money. They act as a two-party ruling cartel, collaborating to deny ballot access to alternative candidates and parties, and to shut them out of debates for public office, especially the presidential debates. They have gerrymandered voting districts to create “safe seats” for the majority of members so that the turnover rate in Congress and many statehouses is comparable to what it was in the Politburo of the former Soviet Union. They are so full of it that when media outlets use graphics of the party symbols, they should show just the rear ends of the donkey and the elephant, because that’s what this ruling cartel is giving us.

  5. Eric Bowman permalink
    August 20, 2008 11:32 am

    ITS VERY NORMAL FOR THE THIEVES OF wdc to pass bills with out debate.After why should they can do any thing they want because the average AMERICAN thinks he or she dosent have time to watch the parasites.They dont reliase that these peole in WDC are out to destroy there nation for there own way of doing things.After all the parisites decided AMERICA NEEDS UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE and the majority of citizens dont even know or care .They just figure they arre getting some thing for free because they have not learned that nothing is free there is always a price.These people in WDC should be subject to term limits with no pension or other benifits they now enjoy.But because of these people AMERICANS are losing more rights every day

  6. July 19, 2009 7:20 am

    Please send me a copy of all of these bills.

    Thank you Mary Brunner

  7. Alan C. Shumaker permalink
    January 28, 2010 1:34 pm

    I was informed that Congress pushed or passed a bill in 2009 entitled the U.S. Music Royalty Fee which is now passed on to customers using Sirius Service. I would like a copy of that bill to confirm the charge is legitimate before I pay the fee and/or to challenge it. Thank You!

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