Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Finally we may found out how Rep Young did it

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That is, how he changed the contents of a bill after the bill was finalized. From TPMmuckaker:

We may finally get some answers about how Rep. Don Young (R-AK) managed to change the text of a bill after it was passed by Congress in order to benefit a major campaign contributor.

In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) today, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) called for the creation of a select committee comprised of both representatives and senators to investigate the miraculous change to the 2005 transportation bill.

To review the circumstances of Young’s extra-Constitutional wizardry: Young, then the chairman of the House transportation committee, inserted a $10 million earmark to widen I-75 in Florida’s Collier and Lee Counties in the 2005 bill. The project was supported by local officials. That was the version passed by Congress. But because of Young’s unique position, he was able to make a crucial change: the bill later signed by the President had different language, directing the $10 million to an I-75 interchange at Coconut Road. That project had been opposed by local officials, but aggressively backed by real estate mogul Daniel Aronoff, who’d thrown a $40,000 fundraiser for Young that year.

This August, we plowed into the 800-page 2005 bill to see whether there had been any other substantial changes. We found that out of approximately 6,370 earmarks, Young’s had been the only to undergo such a change. It’s unclear how Young managed that feat, and he’s refused to answer reporter’s questions about it.

Back in September, the non-partisan watchdog Taxpayers for Common Sense filed a complaint with the House ethics committtee about the change. But as expected, the infamously inert committee has done nothing.

Currently pending on the floor of the Senate is a bill that offers a number of corrections to the 2005 bill; among them is a measure that would undo Young’s change, freeing up the $10 million for the original interchange project which local officials wanted. It’s unclear who authored that provision.

But today, Sen. Coburn (R-OK) said that he’d object to the passage of any bill that corrects the Cocount Road language without a “full and open investigation”:

Because secret, improper, and unauthorized changes to congressionally passed legislation call into question the integrity of our entire Constitutional and legislative process, I believe a full and open investigation into this matter is necessary to restore the integrity of both the U.S. Congress and the Constitution.

You can read the full letter below.

Coburn’s stance might be just the thing to bring Young’s actions to light, Taxpayers for Common Sense’s Keith Ashdown told me. Given how many lawmakers are relying on the pending corrections bill to fix issues with their much beloved transportation funding, there just might be enough pressure for McConnell and Harry Reid to heed Coburn’s call. And Congress might also learn an important lesson: “if you fix the problem without making sure how we realized how this betrayal of democracy occurred, we’re going to repeat the mistake.”

Coburn’s letter:

December 18, 2007The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Minority Leader
United States Senate
361-A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator McConnell:

I write to inform you that I will object to unanimous passage of any bill providing technical corrections of the 2005 highway bill if that bill does not require a full and open investigation of the events leading up to the unauthorized revision of congressionally passed legislation during the enrollment process.

While my understanding is that the latest version of the technical corrections bill restores the original congressional intent of the “Coconut Road” provision, those who perverted and distorted the explicit will of the U.S. Congress must also be held to account. A full investigation into this matter is necessary to ensure that this does not happen again in the future.

After both Houses of Congress approved passage of the conference report on H.R. 3 (SAFETEA-LU) in the 109th Congress, a major substantive change was secretly made to the legislation during the enrollment process. Specifically, item number 462 of section 1934 of the bill was secretly changed from “Widening and Improvements for I-75 in Collier and Lee County” to “Coconut Rd. interchange I-75/Lee County[.]”

H.R. 3 (SAFETEA-LU) – Conference Report as Approved by Congress

H.R. 3 (SAFETEA-LU) – Enrolled Version

As you well know, substantive changes during the enrollment process can only be made via a concurrent resolution, which must be agreed to by both the House and Senate. According to the Congressional Research Service, only one concurrent resolution (H.Con.Res. 226) regarding the 2005 highway bill was passed by the 109th Congress, and the resolution was “silent on any other specific changes, including section 1934[.]”

Because secret, improper, and unauthorized changes to congressionally passed legislation call into question the integrity of our entire Constitutional and legislative process, I believe a full and open investigation into this matter is necessary to restore the integrity of both the U.S. Congress and the Constitution.

I thank you for protecting my rights as a U.S. Senator and I look forward to working with you to create a select committee, comprised of Members of both the House and Senate, to investigate the events that led up to the unauthorized change and to provide a full accounting of the matter to the American public.

Sincerely,

Tom Coburn, M.D.
United States Senator

Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2007 at 5:45 pm

Posted in Congress

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