Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Answer to comboxer

Someone named Konrad sent me three notes in the past few weeks, asking for the Bill Number for the Freedom of Choice Act, which I alluded to in making the point that politics requires that threats pretty much always must be followed through on.

To be honest, I initially dismissed Konrad as a troll, because his unused profile combined with the repetition of his first two notes set off an alarm bell and partially because of a meme making the rounds at the time -- most prominently in this Time magazine (hit) piece by liberal evangelical Amy Sullivan. She assured us that FOCA was a red-herring, a "mythical abortion bill" being railed against by a "well-oiled lobbying campaign" that "some American Catholics are finding ... both curious and troubling ... at a time when the United States is gripped by economic uncertainty and faces serious challenges in hot spots around the globe." Sullivan's piece being in the air meant that Konrad's notes read like the set-up for some liberal's "gotcha" trap ("A-HA ... there IS no such bill ... foiled YOU, Christianist godbagger!!!!").¹

But his latest note, in which he says he has "drafted letter to both the House and Senate and need to insert the bill number" tells me that he deserves an answer. The short answer is that FOCA has not been introduced in the current Congress, so it has no bill number. "Freedom of Choice Act" will suffice for any possible reference, though. Nobody will be confused.

But FOCA will be introduced. Rest assured, according to the sponsor of the legislation, and contrary to Sullivan's earlier report. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:
A spokesman for Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the legislation "is among the congressman's priorities. We expect to reintroduce it sooner rather than later." ...
Ilan Kayatsky, Nadler's spokesman, said he anticipates that the bill's other original sponsor, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., will introduce FOCA in the U.S. Senate. "We expect it to be more or less the same bill with some minor tweaks," Kayatsky said.
This does not mean FOCA will pass, of course; my bet is that it won't, for a variety of good reasons (the bill is so extreme that a majority of congresscritters probably do oppose it) and not-so-good reasons (kulturkampf liberals prefer stealthy administrative bodies and courts to democratic debate; the administration has tied itself to the mast on economic issues and has other domestic fish it'd rather fry).

But still ...
¹ Even though true, this view is ridiculously naive (rebuttals at the time were here from Ramesh Ponnuru at NR, here from John McCormack at TWS, and from Matthew Balin at Newsbusters). The indubitable fact that "no such bill has been introduced in the current Congress" does not make FOCA "a piece of legislation that doesn't exist." Or rather it does so only on the most formalist pecksniffery of the sort that would also believe that the U.S. armed forces are dissolved and raised anew with each Congress -- look it up, that's the actual "legal fiction." FOCA has been introduced in several recent Congresses, even though there was no chance of it reaching either chamber's floor and there was a hostile president at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. But the fact that a bill got little traction when it had no chance of passage and the party that would mostly favor it had little power -- in the world of Time Magazine senior editors, that actually argues AGAINST its relevance when that party has substantial majorities in both houses and a friendly president who was a former co-sponsor and vowed he would sign it during the campaign. Or at a minimum those new conditions don't change the equation in favor of the bill getting more traction now than in the past.

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