Will “Restoration of America’s Wireless Act” Be Passed during Lame Duck Session of Congress?
With the 2014 midterm elections over in the United States, the Republican Party has gained control of the U.S. Senate with a small majority. The Republicans now control both houses of Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court, while Democrats continue to control the executive branch, under President Barack Obama. The Republicans won’t have the votes to override Obama’s veto in 2015, so political power in Washington D.C. remains split.
Lame Duck Politics
Now that the elections are over, the US Congress faces the weirdest session of Congress in any electoral cycle. In late-November and early December of election years, a lame duck session of Congress occurs. This is when members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate meet in session, but a certain percentage (about 10%) of them will not continue representing their district or state when the new Congress convenes in January of the next year.
Some of the members are retiring or resigning, but most lost their election. In this case, they are no longer beholden to their constituency, so they presumably have more freedom to vote their conscious. In truth, most of these people are career politicians who still have political ambitions and party loyalties, but in theory, they are more likely to vote on issues than they normally would.
The lame duck session of Congress wraps up during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, at a time when many people don’t have a lot of time to pay attention to politics. Because it always comes after a long campaign season–whether it’s the presidential election cycle or the midterm election cycle–so many people tune out of the news after the elections are over. In these cases, even continuing politicians are supposed to assume the average voter isn’t paying as close of attention to votes, so political skullduggery might occur that otherwise wouldn’t.
In those cases, earmarks and add-ons play a part in lame duck congress sessions. That is, committee leaders might try to attach unpopular or less prominent legislation to larger bills, especially the funding bills that get passed before the end of the year. Attaching legislation to a bigger bill or a spending omnibus can happen at any time, such as Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. In September 2006, the UIGEA was attached to the Safe Port Act by the Republican-controlled Congress, then signed into law by President George W. Bush. The UIGEA was not popular enough to have been been passed into law on its own merits, so it was attached to a much more popular bill that was almost certain to be enacted into law.
Restoration of America’s Wireless Act
In both houses of congress, Restoration of America’s Wire Act (sometimes called “Restore America’s Wire Act”) is in the committee www. Many bills are discussed in committee which never make it to the floor of congress (for a vote). Some are pushed through by a committee chairman, who finds a way to attach them to more popular bills (by consent of the party’s congressional leadership). Obviously, the party in the majority has a much better chance of seeing such bills attached to legislation, since they control the committees (with all committees controlled by their chairmen).
Restore America’s Wireless Act is a bill to ban online gambling throughout the United States, at the federal level. It is called RAWA in the gaming media, which has covered the topic since it was first introduced to the congress by Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah. Both are Republicans, and both are from states which have little or no legal gambling.
Though RAWA was introduced by two Republicans, it is a bipartisan bill with several key Democrats supporting it or cosponsoring it. In the U.S. Senate, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) all cosponsored the bill. In the U.S. House of Representatives, the bill is cosponsored by representatives Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Jim Matheson (D-Utah), Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Jim Jordan (R–Ohio), Trent Franks (R-Arizona), George Holding (R-North Carolina), Frank Wolf (R-Virginia), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri).
The leading watchdog groups believe the legislation has between a 1% and 7% chance of being signed into law, depending on the source. That is not a very high percentage. To be passed, it almost certainly would have to be attached to a more popular bill. The rumors at the moment is Restoration of America’s Wire Act could be attached to a bill in the lame duck session of congress in 2014.
Attachment to Spending Bill
If so, it might be attached to a piece of legislation, such as the Safe Port Act, which would make it next-to-impossible for President Obama to veto. For instance, a budget bill must be passed in December. That is a contentious spending arrangement often hammered out in the final days before Christmas break. Representatives and senators are wanting to leave DC and return home to their families for the holidays. The American people are getting ready for Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanza, and they have no interest in politics. In such cases, the lame duck session becomes a dangerous time for marginal bills to be passed.
Members of the online gambling community needs to be watching the legislative news for the next six weeks. If there’s even a hint that Restoration of America’s Wire Act is attached to another bill, gamblers should be prepared to lobby their congressman. Send a letter or an email and let them know you are watching, and will keep account of what they do while you’re preparing for Santa Claus.
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