Thursday, June 17, 2004

Another example of the downside of bicameralism -- Cuba policy

The federal government bans us from visiting Cuba, which if you haven't seen a map lately, is a huge island off the coast of Florida. I was surprised how big it is.

This travel ban is stupid. And here's the odd thing: a majority of U.S. Senators and a majority of U.S. Representatives have voted to either abolish the ban or not spend any federal money enforcing the ban. Yet somehow, the ban survives and we keep spending money on making sure we don't visit Cuba.

So dumb.

Here's how it happened, and why I'm ever more convinced we should abolish the U.S. Senate and have a unicameral legislature (and, by the way, do the same in every state except for Nebraska which already has a one-house legislature). So in the federal bill that funds the Transportation Deparment and the Treasury Deparment last fiscal year, the Senate voted 59-36 to not spend any money enforcing the Cuban travel ban. The House voted on the exact same amendment 227-188. But because the larger bills were different in each house, a conference committee was held with only a few electeds from each house serving on this committee. And the House leadership just eliminated the travel ban provision from the bill! It just. . .wasn't there any more. There wasn't a vote. It just disappeared.

If there was only one House of Congress, this manipulation couldn't happen. Conference committees are one of the single largest shortcomings of any bicameral legislature.

I learned about this manuever, by the way, when Senator Durbin sent me back a form letter after I emailed his office to eliminate the travel ban to Cuba. It was one of the best form letters I've gotten from a politician.

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