Thursday, January 3, 2013

Fiscal Cliff Bill: Unread, Full of Fine Print for Special Interests

The U.S. Senate voted 89-8 to approve legislation to avoid the fiscal cliff despite having only 3 minutes to read the 154-page bill and budget score.
Multiple Senate sources have confirmed to CNSNews.com that senators received the bill at approximately 1:36 AM on Jan. 1, 2013 – a mere three minutes before they voted to approve it at 1:39 AM.
Then, Cover reports, the bill went to the House:
In all, the 154-page “fiscal cliff” bill was available for approximately 22 hours before the House voted on it Tuesday night. If a member of the public was awake when the bill first became available after the Senate vote, approximately 1:39 AM Tuesday, they would have to read an average of one page of dense legislative text every 8.6 minutes to finish reading the bill in the 22 hours between House and Senate passage.
If lawmakers had actually read the measure, they would have found numerous provisions to benefit interest groups. At The Washington Examiner, Timothy Carney reports:

The "fiscal cliff" legislation passed this week included $76 billion in special-interest tax credits for the likes of General Electric, Hollywood and even Captain Morgan. But these subsidies weren't the fruit of eleventh-hour lobbying conducted on the cliff's edge -- they were crafted back in August in a Senate committee, and they sat dormant until the White House reportedly insisted on them this week.
The Family and Business Tax Cut Certainty Act of 2012, which passed through the Senate Finance Committee in August, was copied and pasted into the fiscal cliff legislation, yielding a victory for biotech companies, wind-turbine-makers, biodiesel producers, film studios -- and their lobbyists. So, if you're wondering how algae subsidies became part of a must-pass package to avert the dreaded fiscal cliff, credit the Biotechnology Industry Organization's lobbying last summer.
...
A Republican Senate aide familiar with the cliff negotiations tells me the White House wanted permanent extensions of a whole slew of corporate tax credits. When Senate Republicans said no, "the White House insisted that the exact language" of the Baucus bill be included in the fiscal cliff deal. "They were absolutely insistent," another aide tells me. (The White House did not return requests for comment.)
...
"The legislators and the staff go underground when things get so intense," another Hill staffer-turned-lobbyist told me. "Nobody has time for a meeting. Nobody wants to talk about what's going on. ... The key is to plant the seed months in advance."