Rep. Alan Grayson explains how to get results

Congress passed 296 bills during the past two year. There are 435 Congresspeeps.

Do the math.

Yes, that’s correct. During those two years, many, many Members of the House drew $348,000 in salary, plus free rhinoplasty (just kidding) and passed no bills. None.

So how did I get nine of my bills passed, verbatim, in the order in which I introduced them, as part of H.R. 5771?

I’m glad you asked. Let me tell you how.

Back in the 111th Congress, when the Democrats were in charge, if you had a bill that would make things better, there was a darn good chance that it would get passed, and passed quickly. For instance, my Pay for Performance Act, which prohibited Wall Street from using bailout money for bonuses. That passed – in nine days.

That’s not the way it works anymore. Essentially, the GOP has instituted caretaker government. We’ve put Henry David Thoreau in charge: “That government is best which governs least.” Or more specifically: “That government is best which governs laziest.” Only a deadline, an unalterable deadline, generates action, and even then, only at the last minute.

Old fashioned is in. Newfangled is out.

So a year ago, realizing this, I started looking at deadlines. Specifically, expiration dates in legislation.

There are a lot of them. And, frankly, a lot of legislation deserves to die. For that stuff, you won’t see me engaging in life extension. I’m in favor of euthanasia.

But some of it doesn’t deserve to die. Some of it actually helps jus’ plain folk. And that good stuff needs a champion. Because if you don’t push, and push hard, then nothing gets done. Entropy wins. As William Butler Yeats said, “Things fall apart.” That gyre just gets wider and wider.

And wider.

So I combed through expiring provisions, and I made entirely subjective judgments about what was good and what was bad. Then I introduced bills to keep the good stuff. And then the fun started.

The law is a big place, so certain people have responsibility for certain domains within the law. Unfortunately, in the U.S. House of Representatives, now all of those people are Republicans, but that’s the way it goes. I spend an awful lot of time talking to Republicans, because there is no other way right now to get my stuff done. My stuff being your stuff.

Twelve of the bills that I introduced back in January were bills to keep various tax provisions from kicking the bucket, cashing in the chips, buying the farm and biting the dust. There were a lot more that were due to go belly up – maybe almost a hundred. But those dozen were ones that mattered to me, because they matter to you.

So after I introduced those bills, I chatted it up with The Powers That Be. “Hey pal, did you see the Super Bowl? Helluva game. What a blowout! The Seahawks look like a dynasty. I almost forgot to ask, have you heard about those bills that I just put in? You mind taking a look at them?”

Et cetera.

Oh, and memos. I gave them memos. Not because they read them. Because they put them in their vest pockets, and hand them off to staff, with instructions.

(Except for one GOP Chair. His vest pocket is like the Sargasso Sea. Nothing ever comes out of there.)

Thanks to a quirk in the oft-quirky U.S. Constitution, tax bills have to start in the House. That gave the House GOP the action, even with the Democrats in charge of the Senate. The original GOP plan was just to extend all the corporate handouts, rather than anything useful for thee and thine. You don’t have to take my word for it – just look at the bills that they filed, both before and after committee markups.

But I just kept pitchin’ and pitchin’ and pitchin’. I had a whole year to do it.

I did have help. The White House intimated that it would veto a bad bill. This year, in the House, those White House veto threats were like smelling salts. People came to their senses.

As the year went on, I started to see my bills creeping into play. More and more, over time. So I just kept pitchin’ and pitchin’ and pitchin’.

“Hey, bud, did you see that guy Bumgarner in Game Seven last night? He was amazing! I don’t know how he got the Royals to keep swinging at all of that crap he was throwing. And on two days of rest! It was like Mickey Lolich in ’68 – remember him? Oh, hey, are you going to be able to help me out on those energy efficiency tax breaks?”

And so on.

When the GOP finally reached out for some balance in their tax bill – balance between their welfare for billionaires and something resembling a break for Middle Class America — there were my bills, right within their grasp, all ready to go. With the extra satisfaction of knowing that if they put those bills in, then I would stop bugging them.

So the final score in our own little Super Bowl-World Series was this: I introduced 12 tax bills. As I said above, nine of them ended up in H.R. 5771, exactly as I wrote them, and in the order in which I introduced them. Two more also ended up in the bill, with tweaks. One didn’t make it.

Hey – nobody’s perfect. Not even Madison Bumgarner in the World Series. In 21 innings, he did give up that one lone earned run.

So that’s how you legislate, circa 2014. Look, I’m not asking you to like it. As John Godfrey Saxe said, “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” And now you know.


Rep. Alan Grayson


Congressman Alan Grayson is a Democrat serving Florida’s 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was sworn in to office on January 3, 2013. Congressman Grayson serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as the Science and Technology Committee. Alan previously represented Florida’s 8th District in the 111th Congress. During his first term, he served on the Financial Services and the Science and Technology Committees, as well as the Subcommittees on Capital Markets and on Oversight and Investigations.

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