Just Pass the Damn Bill!


Just Pass the Damn Bill!

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, several things have happened to wake up Americans. One of these things is our government’s inability to pass the damn bill! There is always bickering back and forth between the two political parties about their reason for and against most bills. The process is then drawn out, and it could take months for a “sensible” bill to become a law. It is what pisses me off about politics: they take too long to pass the damn bill!

In the midst of the debate over the merits of a bill, the political spin and gamesmanship takes center stage. Both Democrats and Republicans exchange shot after shot at each other, while an important piece of legislation hangs in the balance. It’s all a game, but do we really understand how the game is being played? The best way to explain it is with a simple example with a few exaggerations just to prove the point…

There is an intersection in your city without a stop sign. The street leads directly into a school zone. Cars speed through the intersection and a lot of drivers speed through the intersection, blow past the warning signs, and pass the school. One day, a crossing guard and a child got hit and killed by a motorist. Now the community wanted action to fix this problem. A local congressperson in the Orange Party decided to write a bill to pass a law to add stop signs at this dangerous corner and regulate speed in a new school zone.

Another congressperson in the Purple Party knows an owner of a liquor store chain. He donates money to her campaign and the Purple Party. The owner has an eye on opening a store on corner of that same intersection. He calls the congressperson about the store and reminds her of his generous donations. They will help her get reelected. Now the congressperson wants to add provisions in the stop sign bill that would allow the liquor store to open on the same corner. These are two totally separate issues, but somehow they are associated with the same bill.

The leaders of the Orange and Purple Party argue the merits of the bill. Eventually, they work out a compromise and both measures are included in the final version of the bill. Now it goes to a vote. Officials in the Orange Party want the stop signs, but can’t vote for the bill because of the liquor store. Since they have the majority, their votes override the members of the Purple Party, who favor building the store to satisfy their party member and her generous donor. Now that the bill has been defeated, the games begin. The Purple Party broadcasts the following outcome:

The Orange Party is anti-child safety because they voted against adding stop signs near a school zone!

Because the bill in this simple example is really 1400 pages long, (1350 of those pages are about the stop signs and 50 pages are about the liquor store), it is hard for the public to “see” why the Orange Party struck down the bill. It is also difficult for the Orange Party to refute the anti-child safety claim. The narrative sticks and the public blames the Orange Party every time another incident occurs at the intersection. Meanwhile, the Orange Party voted against the bill because it did not want a new liquor store near a school. At least they “won” that battle.

While this example is purposely far-fetched, it is a snapshot of what happens in our government. There is no such thing as what I call a “clean” bill: short, sweet, and to the point without extra provisions. In my opinion, they should vote on single-item bills. In our example, there could be two “clean” bills: one for the stops signs and another for the liquor store. Then we can get the votes, accept or reject each bill, and implement any laws that pass. Instead, we get 1400 page bills stuffed with pork: extra provisions that are added to satisfy all parties involved in the bill. The pork in our example is building the liquor store. Notice that the will of the community is never addressed after the problem is identified.

I am sure it is impractical to have “clean” bills because of sheer volume. Our representatives would be expected to read and understand all of those bills before they vote. By the way, a lot of them don’t read the 1400 page bills they vote on now anyway. Maybe writing short, “clean” bills a few pages long would change that fact. But I suspect they still wouldn’t read. Instead, they would continue to vote based on their party affiliation, while supporting their colleagues and donors, rather than doing what the community wants and needs.

There has to be a better way to pass the damn bill that someone much smarter than me can figure out. In the meantime, our only hope is to take more interest in what our officials vote for and the reasons they do it. If they hold to the party line or satisfy donors without helping to pass “sensible” legislation for us, then we should notate it, remember it, and vote their asses out during the next election cycle. It is much easier said than done, because they know we do not hold them personally accountable for their votes. We must take back our voting power and get our official to break the gridlock to get things done.

To our elected officials across the country:  just pass the damn bill!


Gary A. McAbee created the Wake Up/Rise Up Black America blog to have a powerful voice and positive impact in African-American neighborhoods, communities, and society. The articles posted are not only for African-Americans, but for all people due to their relevance and cultural significance. Along with his other blog, Motivation for the World, Gary can get people talking about issues that affect us all. He is the proud author of three self-help books: Wake Up! 42 Ways to Improve Black America Now!, the follow-up Rise Up! 42 Additional Ways to Improve Black America Now! , and Defining Success: One Word at a Time.


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