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CPBJ Extra Blog

What are Congress' priorities, exactly?

Amy Gulli
Amy Gulli

Quick: Take five seconds and think of three issues you believe the U.S. Congress should be dealing with right now.

(Pausing to let you think. Don't read on until you have three in your mind.)

Whatever three issues you're now thinking of, I can almost guarantee you the U.S. House didn't talk about it last week.

Want to know what our representatives did instead?

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, whose district covers York and other parts of the midstate, puts out a helpful enewsletter each week that Congress is in session. I want to be clear here: This is not a knock against Scott Perry. I appreciate that he takes the time to be so transparent with his constituents — he even puts up a video and reads the list each time.

So here's his list of what bills the U.S. House was set to discuss during the week of June 24. You'll note there are six bills listed. Here are the top three:

"H.R. 2383 — To designate the new Interstate Route 70 bridge over the Mississippi River connecting St. Louis, Missouri, and southwestern Illinois as the 'Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge' (Sponsored by Rep. Rodney Davis/Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)

"H.R. 1092 —To designate the air route traffic control center located in Nashua, New Hampshire, as the 'Patricia Clark Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center' (Sponsored by Rep. Ann Kuster/Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)

"H.R. 2289 — To rename section 219(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 as the 'Kay Bailey Hutchison Spousal IRA' (Sponsored by Rep. Sam Johnson/Ways and Means Committee)"

I'm sorry, what? Given all of the serious, timely and controversial problems our country is facing, the House actually spent some of its time deciding whether to name one subsection of the 1986 IRS code after someone?? Who really wants an IRS code subsection named after them anyway?

The fourth item on Perry's list seems a worthwhile issue when you first look at it:

"H.R. 1864 — To amend title 10, United States Code, to require an Inspector General investigation of allegations of retaliatory personnel actions taken in response to making protected communications regarding sexual assault (Sponsored by Rep. Jackie Walorski/Armed Services Committee)"

But go back and read that summary again. Know what disturbs me? That there wasn't already protocol in place for someone to investigate such allegations — and that establishing such protocol requires an act of Congress.

The final two items deal with amending the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953:

"H.R. 1613 — Outer Continental Shelf Transboundary Hydrocarbon Agreements Authorization Act — To amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to provide for the proper Federal management and oversight of transboundary hydrocarbon reservoirs (Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan/Natural Resources Committee)

"H.R. 2231 — Offshore Energy and Jobs Act — To amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to increase energy exploration and production on the Outer Continental Shelf, provide for equitable revenue sharing for all coastal States, implement the reorganization of the functions of the former Minerals Management Service into distinct and separate agencies (Sponsored by Rep. Doc Hastings/Natural Resources Committee)"

Granted, these seem worthy of discussion and possible revision. Not being an expert in the Outer Continental Shelf or hydrocarbon, these two are a bit tough for me to sort through and gain a comprehensive understanding.

Of course, that's why I rely on our elected leaders: to focus on such dense, important issues and decide how best to proceed.

I just wish they'd spend more of their precious in-session time focusing on those types of issues instead of discussing whether to name random things after people.

Amy Gulli is the managing editor of the Central Penn Business Journal. Contact her at or follow her on Twitter, @amygulli.

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