Big Brother Smackdown Series: Piggyback Legislation

A controversial, but not unlawful, practice of piggyback legislation in Congress has become one of the most used methods in Congressional Warfare.  Legally known as a ‘Rider’, these are bills, or groups of bills, that are attached to other legislation which are, many times, unrelated. In this fourth editorial of the Big Brother Smackdown Series, we take a look at what a Rider actually is, and why it is marked as one of the serious problems of our Government.

As mentioned above, rider legislation is not illegal or unconstitutional. In fact, it is a very common practice in both State and Federal Governments. Unfortunately, our elected lawmakers, due to political reasons and party warfare, wield the power of rider legislation as a weapon. It is used for either ‘offense’, ‘defense’, or both.

For example, rider legislation has been used to get a “bad law” passed. By attaching unpopular bills, such as the Commodities Future Act (which legalized Credit Default Swaps after being banned for 91 years) to a Congressional spending bill, legislators are able to get laws passed without debate.

In this instance, the congressional spending bill (and its piggybacked riders) amounted to 11,000 pages. It is hardly believable that any member of Congress read each and every one of those eleven thousand pages before voting. It is more believable that they voted on just the congressional spending, and whatever riders were attached became law.

There have been some good things done, as well. The Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act, formerly known as the RAVE Act and sponsored by Senator Joseph Biden, was a rider attached to unrelated legislation. Biden attached it to the legislation that created the ever popular Amber Alert legislation in order to have it passed without debate.

However, even in our example, the rider was attached to unrelated legislation and this is where our problems begin. If a Republican wants to stop a popular bill, that is sponsored by a Democrat, from being passed into law, the increasingly commonplace response is to amend that bill with groups of ‘unpopular’ legislation as riders. Thereby piggybacking the original bill and trying to have it stalled or struck down on the basis of the ‘bad’ legislation.

These are just examples of piggyback legislation used to avoid debate and/or guarantee a passing. The list is long and endless. From anti-environmental laws to concealed weapons legislation, riders have created the worst type of sneakiness within our legislative body. Feel free to search for more examples.

Many times, rather than using riders, bills will be amended to include something detrimental, thus defeating the purpose of the bill. The worst example I can think of is recent Anti-Bullying Legislation in the State of Michigan would have been a landmark law, creating a no tolerance and reporting policy for bullying in schools.

Instead, Republican changes to the legislation have created a loophole allowing harassment by teachers and students who can claim their actions are rooted in a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” Those who truly believe homosexuality is wrong, for example, are free to torment classmates consequence-free.

One cannot truly believe that any single person in the country is so unaware as to how bad lawmaking can affect everyone, yet in their never-ending struggle against each other, the Republican and Democratic parties often forget the American People; despite their claims and repetitions of “The American People want….”  These two egomaniacal political party machines continue to create bad legislation in an effort to prevent the opposing party of gaining a “victory”.

Other countries have effectively prevented rider legislation in their lawmaking branches. Canada, France, Hungary, and Great Britain have all enacted measures to prevent rider legislation for the very same reasons that still exist and persist in our government today.

It has been said, in the past, that piggyback lawmaking will never be curbed through legislation, because it is a major tool in the arsenal of Congressional Politics and neither party would pass a bill banning the practice. Personally, I say this: Find me one member of Congress that believes the practice is wrong. Have that person PIGGYBACK the law banning the practice of rider legislation.

Poetic Justice for the American People.

 The Big Brother Smackdown Series

(aka. Little Brothers Rant)

  1. The Constitution – Federal vs. State Government
  2. Career Politicians – The Source of Bad Government
  3. Political Parties – Democrats, Republicans, and Those Other Guys
  4. People’s Rights as Collateral Damage in The War on Terror
  5. The Clueless Generation
  6. 2012 Elections
    • President Obama
    • Mitt Romney
    • What are you supposed to do about it?
  7. My Solution


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  1. Little Brother’s Rant: The Big Brother Smackdown Series « One Citizen's Voice
  2. Big Brother Smackdown: Career Politicians – Source of Bad Government « One Citizen's Voice
  3. Big Brother Smackdown Series: Federal vs. State Government « One Citizen's Voice
  4. Big Brother Smackdown Series: The Supreme Court « One Citizen's Voice

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