Thousands of bills are introduced in a congressional session, but only a fraction become law. Even without that success, they call attention to their causes — or their sponsors. Here are a few of the eclectic measures awaiting action in Congress.
Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act: Would establish the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historical Park on the moon.
Argument for: "In 1969, led by the late Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong, American ingenuity changed history as humanity took a giant leap forward on the surface of the moon," said Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), the bill's chief sponsor. "That history, as preserved on the lunar surface, is now in danger, as spacefaring commercial entities and foreign nations begin to achieve the technical capabilities necessary to land spacecraft on the surface of the moon."
Status: The bill has yet to get a hearing but has drawn plenty of ridicule. "We don't own the moon! We don't need a national park on the moon even if we did,'' said the Congressional Western Caucus. Citizens Against Government Waste said Edwards and the bill's co-sponsor, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), "have gone where no member of Congress has gone before," adding that the legality of establishing a national park outside the United States, "let alone on Earth's largest satellite, is unclear at best."
Read the Bills Act: Would require legislation to be posted online one week before it comes up for a vote. The House version, sponsored by two Republicans, would exempt declarations of war. The Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), would require that lawmakers sign an affidavit, under penalty of perjury, attesting that they "attentively" read the measure or were present throughout the entire reading. They do not have to sign the affidavit if they vote against the bill.
Argument for: "It is a basic moral question that a member of Congress should only vote to pass legislation having read and understood it," said Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.), the House bill's chief sponsor. "It is a dereliction of our oath of office to pass laws without knowing what they do."
Status: No hearings yet.
Department of Peacebuilding Act: Would establish a Cabinet-level federal department, headed by the secretary of Peacebuilding, dedicated to reducing violence domestically and internationally.
Argument for: The department's duties would include facilitating peace summits between conflicting parties, creating a Peacebuilding Academy modeled after the military academies, and providing grants for college peace studies departments. "We invest hundreds of billions each year in the Pentagon, in war colleges, military academies, and our national defense universities all to develop war tactics and strategies. Now we need that kind of investment in peace and nonviolence here at home," said its chief sponsor, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland). The bill has 25 co-sponsors.
Status: No hearings yet. The idea of a Department of Peace had been championed for more than a decade by then-Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio).
District of Columbia-Maryland Reunion Act: Would address the District of Columbia's long-standing grievance over lack of representation in Congress by turning over the district to Maryland except for a "National Capital Service Area" that includes the Capitol, the White House and monuments on the National Mall.
Argument for: "The District of Columbia would clearly and constitutionally have two senators and a representative with full voting rights by ceding the District of Columbia to Maryland," said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).
Status: Sitting in committee. The district's lack of a vote in Congress has long been a sore point in the city, which features "Taxation without representation" on its license plates. D.C. residents pay federal taxes and can vote for president but have no senator, and only a nonvoting delegate in the House. Legislation to give D.C. statehood has faced GOP resistance because the strongly Democratic district would probably elect two Democratic senators and a Democratic member of the House.
SPA Act: Would prohibit the operation of the House gym during a government shutdown. The Shutdown Prioritization Act was introduced during the 16-day federal government shutdown in October.
Argument for: "If veterans' benefits processing, food assistance for women and children and medical research are not 'essential,' then the sauna, steam room and gym for members of Congress certainly are not," Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) said in a news release titled "No Government, No Congressional Spa." The bill has five co-sponsors.
Status: In committee. No one seems too exercised about the issue now that the government is open.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun