When it comes to legislation, our politicians engage in the “smokescreen game.” In combat, smokescreens are tactically used to hide troop movements or locations by hindering an enemy’s view of the battlefield. The tactic has not gone unnoticed by members of Congress using a similar ploy to pass legislation.

Three aspects are involved in how politicians play this game to hide some contents of a bill.

The first deals with title selection by a bill’s sponsors.

Depending on intent, sponsors either exercise integrity, giving their bill a title honestly representing its contents or, exhibiting less integrity, giving it a misleading title as it includes a lot more funding for other, less popular projects as well.

A recent example of this was the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.” Sounding like legislation primarily designed to address a major problem on the minds of most voters – our economy – it is now recognized as “the most significant climate legislation in U.S. history,” primarily designed to “finance green power, lower costs through tax credits, reduce emissions, and advance environmental justice.”

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Politicians also engage in such gamesmanship when a bill carries a title sponsors selected that is representative of the content, but opponents then seek to poison the legislation by virtue of referencing it with an unrepresentative and unfair title.

Nowhere was this tactic more obvious than earlier this year when Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida sought to pass the “Parental Choice in Education Act.” The legislation simply sought to ban the teaching of sexually mature subjects to students in grades kindergarten through third and mandate teachers alert parents upon learning a student is pregnant or seeking gender change. Democrats unsuccessfully sought to undermine it by erroneously referring to it as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” although it contained no such wording.

Then there are bills named but which in no way identify their primary focus simply because they consist of a smorgasbord of various unrelated measures for various unrelated topics. They become a major conduit for a range of earmarks. Such was the recently passed $1.85 trillion omnibus bill that will fund the U.S. government through the end of September 2023.

While the omnibus bill earmarks totalled $15 billion, legislators also gave themselves a sizable pay raise. On the ridiculous side, although funding for Customs and Border Patrol was provided, such funds were excluded from being used to improve border security. The hypocrisy of this was evidenced by the bill also containing border security improvement funding for Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia and Oman to the tune of $410 million.

The smorgasbord also contained $1,438,000,000 for membership in global multilateral organizations, including the U.N. Other funded projects, tending to suggest money grows on trees, was the naming of a federal building for soon-to-no-longer-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and $3.6 million for the “Michelle Obama Trail.” At a time our economy is in turmoil with people living paycheck-to-paycheck, leadership by example should have had Pelosi and Michelle Obama pressing to forgo such projects.

The second aspect of smokescreen gaming involves politicians hiding their spending sprees within lengthy bills.

The longer a bill is, the less likely there will be time to scour it for waste. The longest bill ever passed by Congress was the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, signed into law by President Donald Trump on Dec. 27, 2020. Logging in at 5,593 pages, it is doubtful its contents were fully understood by all voting on it. Concerning this year’s omnibus bill, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., underscored its ridiculous length by hauling out the 4,100-plus page document on a cart.

The length of some bills perhaps lends better understanding to Pelosi’s comment during a 2010 press conference concerning the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). While only 2,700 pages long, the stack of rules, restrictions and proposed regulations added almost 17,000 additional pages to it. When queried about Obamacare, Pelosi said, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy.” In an ideal world, that “fog of controversy” should be non-existent before receiving a congressional vote.

The third aspect of the smokescreen involves the attachment of very short fuses to vote on bills.

Such may be necessary for a valid reason, such as a new Congress soon to be seated or some other impending event. But short fuses are attached too simply to ram bills through Congress before the opposition can organize to challenge them. This tactic was used by Pelosi to get House approval on an omnibus bill earlier this year.

A video of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., detailed just how such a corrupt tactic was used by Pelosi for the bill as Republicans were never shown its contents. Not until after midnight on March 10, Greene explains, did the Democrat-controlled Rules Committee post an alert on their website, failing even to email notice to Republicans, that a debate would begin less than two hours later. This allowed Democrats to convene the committee in the dark of the night, at 1:30 a.m., passing it by 2:30 a.m., before Republican representatives had even awoken that morning.

Greene laments that this is not how Congress should be run – i.e., in a way failing to allow every member to discuss a bill, make amendments or changes, etc. She claims “Congress is broken. … This is how corrupt it is. It is so corrupt, it is shocking,” concluding that Democrats obviously wanted to get the bill through without being stopped.

Sadly, passing legislation in Congress has evolved into a game of partisan politics by which the chiseling of legislation through challenging debate to hone it into a most effective state for all is disallowed. Accordingly, voters are the real losers.

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