In the midst of the novel coronavirus, Congressional leaders have had to develop novel approaches to legislating. But the consideration of H.R. 2, the INVEST Act, goes too far. It is an all-of-the-above, kitchen sink, smorgasbord package that spans more than 2300 pages of legislative text, continues the costly precedent of trust fund bailouts with tax dollars, explodes the Corps of Engineers budget, forces more “Buy America” requirements on projects, but also attempts to modernize programs and policies to tackle the costs of climate change that are already upon us.
Instead of careful consideration, lawmakers are forced to deal with huge packages of “en bloc” packages of amendments jammed together to reduce the number of votes and debate to reduce the chance of COVID-19 exposure between lawmakers. Most lawmakers won’t know what they’ve voted for or against until well after it is voted on. Jamming a grab bag package across the floor gets in the way of a more targeted defendable approach to dealing with infrastructure needs.
Additionally, Members had to navigate sneaky procedural shenanigans just to begin consideration of the bill. The rule to govern debate on the floor includes a “self-executing rule” that automatically adopts the manager’s amendment. So, a vote to debate the enormous package is also a vote to make huge changes to financing of green energy projects, changes to the status of certain TSA employees, and a litany of other changes across the package.
Transparency and oversight are taking a big hit under this process.