The political tactic of attaching unrelated bills to end-of-the-year, must-pass important legislation in the lame duck session of Congress has again come under the microscope this week following an appeal by several US action groups to Rep. John Culberson, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, not to allow the practice.
The letter is signd by Andrew Langer, President of the Institute for Liberty; David Williams, President of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance; Andrew F. Quinlan, President of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity; Michelle Minton, Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute; Norm Singleton, Senior Vice President of the Campaign for Liberty; Seton Motley, President of Less Government; and George S. Scoville III, who is a Constitutional Scholar and Online Commentator.
The group specifically identified proposals containing language from the Restoration of the American Wire Act, a measure that has languished unsuccessfully in the House for several years but has recently resurfaced in Senate bill S.3376, a proposal by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton which has a distinctly RAWA flavour.
The letter to Rep. Culberson asserts: “We, the following free-market, limited-government, and freedom-oriented organizations are asking you to oppose language supporting any kind of ban or federal limitation on internet gaming that might be included in a ‘lame-duck’ spending bill.”
The correspondence goes on to emphasise the rejection of earmarks in the appropriations bill by House Speaker Paul Ryan, noting that the inclusion of proposals like RAWA or language therefrom is inconsistent with reforming the process.
The letter also takes a direct shot at Republican donors who expect to be rewarded for their support by the passage of laws favourable to them.
The action group initiative follows a similar appeal to House Speaker Ryan from Rep. Mick Mulvaney, requesting that during the lame duck session, Congress votes on a “clean continuing resolution, free of legislative add-ons such as the RAWA legislation.”
Such attachments by-pass the normal legislative process enshrined in the normal legislative system of committee hearings, mark-ups, and Congressional debate, the action groups protest in agreement, claiming:
“The consequence of RAWA legislation being buried in a spending bill sets a dangerous precedent for any party to use such bills in the future to circumvent the Constitution’s protections in a variety of areas, including the 2nd Amendment, which increases the possibility of further federal intervention in firearm and ammunition sales.”
One of the reasons for the lack of appetite for RAWA in Congress is the thorny issue of states’ rights to make laws on issues within their own borders, free of federal government interference.
This 10th Amendment protection against federalism works both ways in online gambling – some states favour regulation and licensing, whilst others seek bans…but in all cases it is the prerogative of the individual states.
Politicians have learned to tread carefully in this sensitive area, and RAWA is seen not only as “crony capitalism” for generous political donors, but also as an attack on states’ rights.