WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- The major pieces of legislation approved by U.S. lawmakers this week highlight how there is typically a host of unadvertised and surprising provisions in laws approved by Congress, particularly in the large, must-pass pieces of legislation.
The massive overhaul of the national intelligence system, the $388 billion fiscal 2005 appropriations bill and other measures approved this week contain a litany of provisions not hyped by lawmakers along with a few unexpected additions, both controversial and not.
Beyond the traditional pork spending and special-interest favors that appear in most major pieces of legislation, there are a few interesting tidbits.
One such provision in an intelligence funding bill approved by the Senate Wednesday night is a highly classified and costly spy program that is secret by design.
Nevertheless, a project that got little to no public notice in the run-up to passage of the bill drew major criticism from Senate Democrats on Wednesday.
Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Democrat Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia condemned the project as dangerous to national security in an unusual public attack on a classified project, also saying the spending was "unjustified" and "very, very wasteful."
Rockefeller was joined by Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois, Carl Levin of Michigan and Ron Wyden of Oregon in not signing off on the final compromise deal including that includes the spending.
Beyond creating a new national director of intelligence, the intelligence overhaul bill that received final approval by the Senate Wednesday afternoon including some other intriguing programs and changes to national law.
One not-so-secret move that received little public attention is the fact that the bill provides the largest buildup of border guards in U.S. history.
While the fight over other immigration-related measures in the bill -- including a ban on states issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants and a toughening of federal asylum laws -- have received the most headlines, the border-guard provisions are a major increase in the program.
But while the bill would allow for the near doubling of Border Patrol agents to 21,000 over five years and the addition of 4,000 more immigration and customs agents to the government payroll, the money to do so is not provided in the measure.
The measure also provides for an increase of the number of beds for the detention of illegal aliens, but only if the money is ultimately made available by lawmakers.
In fact, while the majority of congressional and public attention was paid to the intelligence-restructuring portions of the bill, most of the measure deals with immigration and security issues.
Another unadvertised provision in the intelligence-reform bill would ban butane lighters from being carried into the passenger section of commercial aircraft.
Lighters would join the existing list of banned items in flights on airlines, including scissors, box cutters and penknives. Such items can only be checked on airplanes.
Democratic Sens. Wyden and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota pushed for the provision, which takes effect 60 days after President Bush signs the legislation.
A little-noticed provision in the $388 billion 2005 omnibus appropriations bill given final clearance by the House on Monday and signed into law by Bush Wednesday would end the 33-year-old ban on the sale of wild horses for slaughter.
The provisions -- reportedly put in the measure by Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., before Thanksgiving -- orders the Bureau of Land Management to sell any horses captured that are at least 10 years old and are not adopted, with the money earned going to the agency.
More than 14,000 captured wild horses are being kept in holding sites in Oklahoma and Kansas. The animals are often captured because they are foraging on government land leased by private farmers for grazing of other types of livestock, typically cattle.
The United States exported 8,750 tons of horsemeat in 2003, around one-third of which was destined for consumption in France.
Consumption of the meat is prohibited in the United States.
The most controversial and high-profile surprise in the omnibus spending bill was a provision caught at the last minute in the Senate and condemned by members of both parties.
The small measure would have allowed some committee chairmen in the House and Senate and their staff unfettered access to personal IRS tax records.
The provision was removed from the bill in order to attain final passage, raising angry denunciations from House Democrats who sought to blame its insertion on Republican leaders.
Although a House GOP aide took the blame for adding the provision to the bill, Democrats said that the Republican leadership practice of ignoring House rules was to blame.
The rule in question requires a bill to be given three days after a final version is completed before a vote is conducted.
"It (the tax provision) speaks to a larger issue about how the House is administered," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told United Press International at a news conference Thursday.
She added that the matter has lifted the issue of lawmakers not reading the legislation they approve in the minds of people in the United States, a questionable conclusion that the same point was made in Michael Moore's hit movie "Fahrenheit 9/11" earlier this year with no political blowback.
Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues have not offered any significant solutions to the historical problem of surprises coming up in bills beyond calling for the so-called three-day rule has been adhered to.
Even with three days, 10 days, or even a month before passage, lawmakers are not likely to read entire bills.
The culture of lawmaking and impracticality of reading several thousand pages of potential law results in members of Congress typically relying on aides and those promoting the measure to tell them what it contains.
For instance, the intelligence-reform bill was delayed for a couple of weeks before final passage, but it is questionable whether a great number of lawmakers read the measure or new about the butane-lighter provision.
It is a practical fact of modern legislating that bills will always have surprises -- just look at what lawmakers did this week.
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