Thursday, July 26, 2007

Walberg Amendment: Huh?

Thanks to the anonymous comment that brought this to my attention.

On HR 3074, the appropriations bill for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (which Walberg earmarked and voted against), Congressman Walberg offered an amendment. It's an amendment he seems proud of, perhaps because it's the first time the House has passed something he's written.

But it's a very puzzling amendment. Here's the text as read by the House clerk:
Amendment offered by Mr. Walberg:

At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:

Sec. __X. None of the funds made available in this Act may be used by the Department of Transportation to promulgate regulations based on race, ethnicity, or sex.

Walberg called it "prohibiting 'affirmative action for roads.'" Apparently he thinks this is a big problem. He spoke in support of his amendment (it's worth noting that the House clerk recorded a slightly different version of his speech than he posts on his website), and he was "almost speechless with the fact that this very simple amendment has not been challenged aggressively yet."

When the amendment was challenged, here's what Congressman John Olver, sponsor of the bill, said:

Either this is not a serious amendment or it is an exceedingly serious amendment. This amendment is either totally unnecessary or it has a really nefarious purpose. We do have rules and regulations, I think, that might come under the material of the legislation that support and require certain set-asides for minority or women-owned businesses in providing among all of our contracting in transportation departments, in some of those departments, and under certain circumstances. I think those are entirely appropriate.

I don't know whether this is the sort of thing that the gentleman was trying to get at, but I think that this has some entirely unknown effects. Perhaps I should have asked the gentleman whether he had particular things in mind that he knew about because I couldn't at first think of any.

Mr. Chairman, my chairman says I should accept the amendment, and I am going to accept the amendment.

In other words, Congressman Olver couldn't quite figure out what the amendment would actually do, and Congressman Walberg offered no specific examples of what he wanted to prohibit. In the end, it was easier just to swallow it than get into a big fight over a very vague amendment.

Conservatives are celebrating a victory, but the commenter that brought this to my attention seems worried:
That simple, huh? No opposition? Walberg walks away thinking he scored a major victory, but does anyone understand what that amendment affected? It seems like the democrat in charge of opposing the amendment could not even figure it out. I think Waberg might have just catapulted himself onto the national stage with the help of the democrat leadership.
Congratulations on your victory, Congressman Walberg. Now, if we could just figure out what that actually means...

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The link to the Congressional Record has expired already or something. Whatever happened, it didn't happen. -Yogi Berra (not really)

I don't understand this amendment either, but had it not been pointed out that it was particularly difficult to understand I may have simply assumed it was written in Congressmanese and only someone like me thought it sounded vague.

Whatever it does or doesn't do on paper, it looks like Tim got to brag to his constituents while at the same time flattering them on their pro anti-affirmative (affirmation, negation, affirmation - yeesh) action vote. I would guess that the 7th District probably voted yes at a greater clip than the state as a whole. After all, it did elect Walberg.
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