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September 25, 2007

Stupid Senate Resolutions

This month, just an hour after President Bush denounced a MoveOn.org ad that criticized General David Petraeus, the Senate voted to condemn any "personal attacks" on Petraeus. And while some politicians voted against the resolution—Barack Obama called it "a stunt designed only to score cheap political points"—the reality is that symbolic bills are a staple of modern American politics. A quick glance at Gov Track, a Senate-resolution index site, finds no fewer than 150 bills this year that were simply meant to congratulate or recognize such groups as the Mount Union College Purple Raiders, "Memphis-originating soul music," and the entire city of New Milford, Connecticut.

Here are some other examples of your tax dollars hard at work…

June 2005: The Senate passes a resolution apologizing for its past failures to properly criminalize lynching. Twelve Republican senators hold out on signing the resolution, including Thad Cochran (R-MS), who says, "I don't feel that I should apologize for the failure to pass any legislation by the US Senate." Editorials ensued.

July 2006: Fifty years after the inception of the phrase "In God We Trust," the Senate unanimously passes a resolution to "celebrate and reaffirm" the statement as the national motto of the United States. Conservative stalwarts like James Dobson and the Traditional Values Coalition are as happy as clams.

February 2007: Partly inspired by Black History Month, the New York City Council introduces a "nonbinding" resolution banning the word "nigger" in an effort to bring awareness to the dangerous prevalence of the word in the music industry. A South Park episode ensued.

May 2007: Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) strongly criticizes a resolution commemorating Rachel Carson's 100th birthday, saying that Carson's book Silent Spring "was the catalyst in the deadly worldwide stigmatization against insecticides" that could prevent the spread of malaria. This isn't Coburn's first take-down of symbolic legislation: a week earlier, he edited the language of a resolution intended to honor the accomplishments of AmeriCorps by eliminating virtually all positive references to the organization.

April 2007: The Vermont state senate passes a resolution calling on the US Congress to impeach President Bush. Most critics say that it won't make much progress in the congressional pipeline. So far, they're right.

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