Recently, American lawmakers voted on a multi-trillion dollar government funding package that included a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill. The interesting part it that the bill includes $15 million Democracy Programs and $10 million Gender Programs for Pakistan. What these programs would exactly do is another tricky question only those who managed to read the mammoth 5,593 pages bill in 2 hours could answer.
How $15M Democracy Programs For Pakistan Became Part Of US COVID Relief Bill
American lawmakers who recently voted on a multi-trillion dollar government funding package that included a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill were given only a couple of hours for review by the congressional aides.
The legislation was gigantic 5,593 pages long.
“You’d have to read 560 pages an hour to finish it before midnight,” observed NBC News correspondent Garrett Haake. Well, Indians are not alone in protesting why major bills are being rushed through the parliament.
Folks! The bill is on the move! pic.twitter.com/AYTztVZaYA
— Garrett Haake (@GarrettHaake) December 21, 2020
Lawmakers did not wait until midnight to pass the legislation, however.
“The Senate passed the massive year-end legislation combining $900 billion in pandemic relief with $1.4 trillion to fund federal agencies through fiscal 2021,” Bloomberg reported.
So how did lawmakers read 560 pages an hour before voting on the bill? The answer is simple: they didn’t. In fact, there was a great deal of confusion—in both media and Congress—on what precisely lawmakers were voting on, reported Jon Miltimore for the Foundation for Economic Education.
“No member can honestly say they know exactly what they voted for this evening,” said Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who voted against the legislation. “That is reason alone to vote no.”
It’s not good enough to hear about what’s in the bill. Members of Congress need to see & read the bills we are expected to vote on.
I know it’s “controversial” & I get in trouble for sharing things like this, but the people of this country deserve to know. They deserve better.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 21, 2020
Infact, Congressman Paul Gosar went as far to call entire bill, “a sellout”.
The whole package is a sell out. I’m voting no. Dozens of problems. 5,500 pages long and 2 hours to review. This is nonsense. https://t.co/o6piXAvEEw
— Paul Gosar (@DrPaulGosar) December 22, 2020
As Yahoo Finance reports, some of the lesser-known provisions “have raised some eyebrows.”
“Among them are a pair of assistance programs in Pakistan, whereby $15 million will be put toward “democracy programs” and $10 million will be distributed to ‘gender programs,’” reports Fox News correspondent Brittany De Lea.
You read that correctly.
But technically this provision—and other defense measures such as $73 million in spending for Israel’s Iron Dome 9 defense system —is not part of the COVID relief package. It’s part of the defense bill contained in the $1.4 trillion omnibus that was bound up with the COVID relief bill.
So while the Pakistani democracy and gender programs were not technically included in the COVID relief bill, the end result is much the same. US senators could not vote for COVID relief without voting for gender programs in Pakistan.
The process in the House was a bit more complicated.
As @Yair_Rosenberg points out, the $500,000,000 to Israel is not technically part of the COVID bill, but a separate bill passed with foreign aid – still at the same time Congress said they can't afford more than $600 in a one-time payment to Americans:https://t.co/kWD2wHnVdP
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 21, 2020
Jon Miltimore calls it a slap in the face to Americans during a year in which tens of millions of Americans were forced out of work and hundreds of thousands of businesses were destroyed.
I predict the day our country’s finances collapse, we will still be funding “gender programs in Pakistan.” Tonight’s COVID relief/stimulus bill has no less than $10 million for said programs attached to it. pic.twitter.com/0WMTeckdBN
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) December 22, 2020
Why aren’t members reading the bill? Oh I don’t know. Because it’s full of other stuff?
— Erielle Davidson (@politicalelle) December 21, 2020
People are right to see that tying COVID relief to defense provisions is, well, stupid. But there’s a phenomenon that helps explain why this happens. It’s called logrolling.
Logrolling is essentially the trading of favors among legislators for mutual benefit. Bills often get passed by winning the support of lawmakers by including provisions that benefit their special interests, but which may not align with any public good. As a result, successful legislation tends to be chock full of special-interest spending.
This trap is highlighted by “public choice” economics, which assumes that politicians vote to forward their own interests just like everyone else. In this case, however, they impose costs on the country in exchange for a big benefit to a special interest group who supports them.
If you’re wondering how a vote for COVID relief for Americans becomes tied to $15 million for democracy programs and $10 million for gender programs in Pakistan and hundreds of millions of dollars in defense for another country, look to the incentives lurking within government institutions.
For now, Donald Trump has brought the stupidity to a halt by exercising a veto against the bill.
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