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Time is winding down to find a deal to avoid a potential government shutdown. The Senate shot down the first attempt at a short-term fix Thursday, with the fight over spending caps and money for Planned Parenthood.
But when it came time to finally get into gear on figuring things out, the Senate was debating a solution as part of a bill called the Hire More Heroes act of 2015.
The Hire More Heroes Act started off as a dig at Obamacare, exempting small businesses from certain parts of the law if they hired veterans. But now, it’s what’s called a legislative vehicle.
“This idea that Congress sometimes substitutes in the full text of one thing … for the full text of something else is not uncommon,” said Molly Reynolds, a fellow at the Brookings Institution.
“You may recall,” said Reynolds, “that this same bill … is also the vehicle that they were using to debate the disapproval resolution for the Iran deal.”
But why not just write a new bill, especially if it’s just a stop-gap measure? Not so easy, said Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
“You’re on a ticking time clock here,” he said. “With a week to go, you can’t start from scratch. You’ve got to find some vehicle that was going to be moving along anyway.”
Ornstein said to think of Congress like a train station. You’ve got a train — or in this case, a bill — that’s been prepped and ready to go. All the complex procedures to get it to a floor vote are done. So you dump the original cargo.
“It’s still ostensibly the same train, it’s still got the same name and the same number, but it doesn’t have the same passengers at all,” Ornstein said.
What’s more, many veterans didn’t really like the original Hire More Heroes Act. Peter Gudmundsson is president of Recruit Military. He didn’t know about the bill’s new role in keeping the government funded, but said he’s not surprised. Gudmundsson said he doesn’t even bother following what Congress does because of stuff like this.
“It’s unfortunate that both sides can’t review their high school civics and do it the way it should be done,” he said upon hearing the new purpose of the bill. But, it’s unlikely that in today’s Congress all the members would be on board to do it the old-fashioned way.
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