Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 13, 2008
By: Hilzoy

More Comparisons

Earlier today I posted a list of the bills and amendments sponsored by either John McCain or Barack Obama that were enacted into law. In this installment, I list the bills and amendments that they co-sponsored that were passed in the 110th Congress. (The 109th is coming later.)

Co-sponsorship is tricky. On the one hand, it's worth including, since each bill only gets to have one lead sponsor, and often more than one Senator does significant work on it. Bills like Nunn-Lugar and McCain-Feingold are named after two Senators for a reason, but each had only one lead sponsor. This means that looking only at sponsored legislation leaves out important work that Senators have done. On the other hand, co-sponsorship is no guarantee that a Senator has done significant work: they might just sign on because they like the bill. I have tried to correct for this as much as possible: I have counted only bills that McCain and Obama signed onto at the earliest possible moment, and in the case of amendments, I went to the Congressional Record to see whether they were listed as co-sponsors when the amendment was introduced. This rules out bills and amendments that they clearly signed onto after the fact. On the other hand, it undoubtedly includes legislation that they did not actually help draft. I've listed the number of original co-sponsors for each bill/amendment: a bill with two original co-sponsors is more likely to reflect those co-sponsors' work than one with fifty. Nonetheless, this list undoubtedly includes too much; I don't know how to rectify that.

As before, I have omitted the following: (a) bills that just do something ceremonial, like name a post office; (b) bills that merely call for a report or express the sense of the Senate (too easy to mean anything); (c) bills that appropriate less than $40 million, and that do nothing else; (d) bills of purely local interest. I got lazier on two counts: first, when it wasn't obvious, I did not check the amendments to make sure that they appropriated more than $40 million. (I.e., when an amendment struck a section of an existing bill and replaced it with an appropriation of more than $40 million, I did not check the underlying bill to make sure that the difference between the two was, in fact, over $40 million.) Second, I stopped checking to see whether amendments' underlying bills were passed. (There were just too many of them.)

The list is below the fold.

Co-Sponsored Legislation, 110th Congress:

Bills Passed:

McCain and Obama (2 bills): S.2829 : A bill to make technical corrections to section 1244 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, which provides special immigrant status for certain Iraqis, and for other purposes. (16 original co-sponsors, Summary: "Makes technical corrections to provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 which provide special immigrant status for certain Iraqis employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government. Authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security or State to convert approved petitions for such status with respect to which visas are not immediately available to approved petitions for petitions filed before October 1, 2008.")

S.3406: A bill to restore the intent and protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. (55 original co-sponsors(!))

Obama (3 bills): S.231: A bill to authorize the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program at fiscal year 2006 levels through 2012. (15 original co-sponsors)

S.2488 : A bill to promote accessibility, accountability, and openness in Government by strengthening section 552 of title 5, United States Code (commonly referred to as the Freedom of Information Act), and for other purposes. (17 original co-sponsors)

A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to codify increases in the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans that were effective as of December 1, 2007, to provide for an increase in the rates of such compensation effective December 1, 2008, and for other purposes. (Cleared for White House; 10 original co-sponsors)

McCain: none.

Bills Placed On Calendar:

Obama and McCain (2 bills): S.223: A bill to require Senate candidates to file designations, statements, and reports in electronic form. (21 original co-sponsors)

S.1606: A bill to provide for the establishment of a comprehensive policy on the care and management of wounded warriors in order to facilitate and enhance their care, rehabilitation, physical evaluation, transition from care by the Department of Defense to care by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and transition from military service to civilian life, and for other purposes. (30 original co-sponsors)

Obama (3 bills): S.2: A bill to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide for an increase in the Federal minimum wage. (28 original co-sponsors. Eventually passed via another bill.)

S.2166 : A bill to provide for greater responsibility in lending and expanded cancellation of debts owed to the United States and the international financial institutions by low-income countries, and for other purposes. (5 original co-sponsors)

S.2555 : A bill to permit California and other States to effectively control greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, and for other purposes. (17 original co-sponsors)

McCain (6 bills): S.1675: A bill to implement the recommendations of the Federal Communications Commission report to the Congress regarding low-power FM service. (McCain the only original co-sponsor)

S. 1771: A bill to increase the safety of swimming pools and spas by requiring the use of proper anti-entrapment drain covers and pool and spa drainage systems, to educate the public about pool and spa safety, and for other purposes. (8 original co-sponsors)

S.1853: A bill to promote competition, to preserve the ability of local governments to provide broadband capability and services, and for other purposes. (7 original co-sponsors)

S.2087 : A bill to amend certain laws relating to Native Americans to make technical corrections, and for other purposes. (McCain only original co-sponsor)

S.2128 : A bill to make the moratorium on Internet access taxes and multiple and discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce permanent. (McCain one of two original co-sponsors)

S.2606 : A bill to reauthorize the United States Fire Administration, and for other purposes. (McCain one of three original co-sponsors)


Obama: 25 Co-Sponsored Amendments

S.AMDT.3 to S.1 In the nature of a substitute. (This is, for all intents and purposes, the Senate Ethics bill: it begins: "Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the following:" (or: delete the existing bill, and replace it with this), and then the "amendment" takes up six or seven pages of the Congressional Record. 9 original co-sponsors.)

S.AMDT.4 to S.1 To strengthen the gift and travel bans. (Three original co-sponsors)

S.AMDT.15 to S.1 To require Senate committees and subcommittees to make available by the Internet a video recording, audio recording, or transcript of any meeting not later than 14 business days after the meeting occurs. (Obama is the only original co-sponsor)

S.AMDT.31 to S.1 To prohibit former Members of Congress from engaging in lobbying activities in addition to lobbying contacts during their cooling off period. (Obama is the only original co-sponsor)

S.AMDT.33 to S.1 To prohibit former Members who are lobbyists from using gym and parking privileges made available to Members and former Members. (Obama is the only original co-sponsor)

S.AMDT.529 to S.CON.RES.21 To increase funding for the COPS Program to $1.15 billion for FY 2008 to provide state and local law enforcement with critical resources necessary to prevent and respond to violent crime and acts of terrorism and is offset by an unallocated reduction to non-defense discretionary spending and/or reduction to administrative expenses. (13 original co-sponsors)

S.AMDT.1009 to S.1082 To insert provisions relating to antibiotic access and innovation and certain enantiomer drugs. (Five original co-sponsors. Underlying bill held at the desk.)

S.AMDT.1169 to S.1348 To reduce to 200,000 the number of certain non-immigrants permitted to be admitted during a fiscal year. (Four original co-sponsors. Underlying bill failed cloture vote.)

S.AMDT.2132 to H.R.1585 To provide and enhance rehabilitative treatment and services to veterans with traumatic brain injury and to improve health care and benefits programs for veterans. (12 original co-sponsors.)

S.AMDT.2268 to H.R.1585 To provide for an increase in the number of nurses and faculty. (10 original co-sponsors.)

S.AMDT.2402 to H.R.1538 In the nature of a substitute. (50 original co-sponsors. An immensely long substitute for HR 1538, the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act.)

S.AMDT.2467 to H.R.2638 To authorize the release of data used to determine eligibility for assistance under title IV of the Robert T Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. (Obama sole original co-sponsor)

S.AMDT.2509 to H.R.2638 To mitigate the health risks posed by hazardous chemicals in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and for other purposes. (Five original co-sponsors)

S.AMDT.2719 to H.R.2764 To prohibit the application of certain restrictive eligibility requirements to foreign nongovernmental organizations with respect to the provision of assistance under part I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. (12 original co-sponsors. I think this is legislaton lifting the global gag rule.)

S.AMDT.2797 to H.R.3074 To prohibit the establishment of a program that allows Mexican truck drivers to operate beyond the commercial zones near the Mexican border. (Six original co-sponsors.)

S.AMDT.2872 to H.R.1585 To assist certain Iraqis who have worked directly with, or are threatened by their association with, the United States. (13 original co-sponsors)

S.AMDT.2962 to H.R.1585 To implement the recommendations of the Department of Defense Task Force on Mental Health. (Obama one of two original co-sponsors.)

S.AMDT.2969 to H.R.1585 To provide for the establishment of a Center of Excellence in Prevention, Diagnosis, Mitigation, Treatment, and Rehabilitation of Military Eye Injuries. (Obama one of four original co-sponsors)

S.AMDT.2999 to H.R.1585 To provide for the study and investigation of wartime contracts and contracting processes in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. (26 original co-sponsors)

S.AMDT.3349 to H.R.3043 To prohibit the Secretary of Education from using funds with respect to an evaluation for the Upward Bound Program until congressional examination of the regulation providing for such review. (Seven original co-sponsors.)

S.AMDT.4203 to S.CON.RES.70 To increase funding for the National Institutes of Health and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. (27 original co-sponsors.)

S.AMDT.4230 to S.CON.RES.70 To increase FY 2009 funding for the Byrne/Justice Assistance Grant program to $906,000,000 with an offset. (18 original co-sponsors)

S.AMDT.4245 to S.CON.RES.70 To restore full funding for the international affairs budget, in support of the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear nonproliferation, foreign assistance, fighting global AIDS, promoting sustainable development, and other efforts, with an offset. (17 original co-sponsors)

S.AMDT.4370 to S.CON.RES.70 To provide for a deficit-neutral reserve fund to make improvements to ensure access to the Medicare program for low-income senior citizens and other low-income Medicare beneficiaries. (16 original co-sponsors)

S.AMDT.4539 to H.R.1195 To call for a review by the Department of Justice of allegations of violations of Federal criminal law. (Three original co-sponsors. Adds section requiring investigation of the Coconut Road earmark, which mysteriously appeared in an earlier transportation bill between when it was passed and when the President signed it.)

McCain: 7 Co-Sponsored Amendments

S.AMDT.98 to S.1 To provide for better transparency and enhanced Congressional oversight of spending by clarifying the treatment of matter not committed to conferees by either House. (2 original co-sponsors. Allows Senators to raise points of order against anything in conference report that was not submitted to conference by either house of Congress, or which provides a level of funding not submitted by either house.)

S.AMDT.411 to S.4 To advance and strengthen democracy globally through peaceful means using transformational diplomacy to assist foreign countries to implement democratic forms of government, to strengthen respect for internationally accepted human rights standards and norms in foreign countries through increased United States advocacy, to strengthen alliances of democratic countries, and to increase support for programs of nongovernmental organizations, individuals, and private groups that promote democracy. (McCain only original co-sponsor)

S.AMDT.477 to S.CON.RES.21 To provide for a budget point of order against legislation that increases income taxes on taxpayers, including hard-working middle-income families, entrepreneurs, and college students. (7 original co-sponsors)

S.AMDT.990 to S.1082 To provide for the importation of prescription drugs. (9 original co-sponsors)

S.AMDT.1173 to S.1348 To provide for minimum sentences for aliens who reenter the United States after removal. (6 original co-sponsors. Underlying bill failed.)

S.AMDT.2019 to H.R.1585 To provide for the care and management of wounded warriors. (McCain only original co-sponsor)

S.AMDT.2174 to H.R.1585 To provide, with an offset, $59,041,000 for other procurement for the Army for the General Fund Enterprise Business System of the Army. (McCain only original co-sponsor)

Hilzoy 11:11 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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Posted by: MarkC on September 13, 2008 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

The fine print in the contract gets more interesting when the bailiff rolls around.

Posted by: Jassalasca Jape on September 13, 2008 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

The last three posts - this one and its earlier companion, plus Benen's "minor" "context"-setting post on crowd size exaggeration - remind me of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. With McCain at 51-47 on Intrade, maybe we should instead be working on ideas that'll help turn this boat around?

Posted by: MarkC on September 13, 2008 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

It is interesting to see that Obama has done more work during the last 2 congressional sessions than McCain did.

As soon as McCain starts pointing out that he's been there for 25+ years and has many more Bills in his name as well as amendments, it would be nice if someone could point out the following:

"Indeed, McCain did have a heavier workload in previous congressional sessions, especially a decade or more ago. We do notice that the record shows: As McCain ages, he gets less involved with policies and legislation. This begs the question: Is McCain getting to be too old for the rigors required of a President?"

Posted by: bruno on September 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

>>With McCain at 51-47 on Intrade, maybe we should instead be working on ideas that'll help turn this boat around?

Here's an interesting tidbit: When the iceberg that eventually sank the Titanic was first spotted, the captain did what seemed natural upon seeing a giant mountain of ice bearing down on him: He ordered the engines into full reverse, attempting to stop before the collision. But what his action actually did was rob the Titanic of its forward momentum, making it much less responsive to steering and thus in fact guaranteeing the fate he was trying to avoid.

It's barely a week since the conventions ended. There are seven weeks remaining until the election. The Obama campaign has shown a remarkable ability to play the long game. It's time for people to calm down ... We mustn't get complacent but panic doesn't help either.

Hilzoy's posts are interesting legwork that help illuminate the legislative angle. The crowd-exaggerating post actually points to something quite significant, which is the apparent hardening of the McCain-is-compulsive-liar meme. If that gets established in the media's eyes -- if McCain loses claim to the Straight Talk mythos -- it could well decide the election by itself. It's not going to be one or two Big Lies that do it; it'll be the slow drip-drip-drip of pointless small lies that's gonna kill him.

Posted by: Bernard HP Gilroy on September 14, 2008 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

Look: I recognize that this isn't everyone's cup of tea. That's why you don't have to, and probably won't, read it. I'm putting it out there as a resource, in case anyone else gets fed up hearing people talk about Obama as an empty suit. I could just get annoyed, but I'd rather provide data.

Besides, I can't be the only legislation wonk in the world, can I?

Posted by: hilzoy on September 14, 2008 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

I'm a precinct committeeman, working the lowest-level politcal entity in government. I second everything Bernard HP Gilroy said. I'm on the phones every day, making sure my people are set to vote. That's what we can do: get down in the trenches and work!

Posted by: terry in AZ on September 14, 2008 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

Look: I recognize that this isn't everyone's cup of tea. That's why you don't have to, and probably won't, read it. I'm putting it out there as a resource, in case anyone else gets fed up hearing people talk about Obama as an empty suit. I could just get annoyed, but I'd rather provide data.

Besides, I can't be the only legislation wonk in the world, can I?

Thank you for providing information that actually touches upon true Federal issues in relation to the candidates. It's not wonky. It's what everyone should be doing if they care to know what the government, it's representatives and the system is doing with the time and money we give them. Or we can just talk about celebrity, family values and gossip. Might as well create buzz words like "narrative" to describe what our issues have turned into. What ever floats the American boat I guess.

Posted by: Mick on September 14, 2008 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

I could just get annoyed, but I'd rather provide data.

No reason you can't do both :) But in any case, the data is much appreciated. Thanks again.

Looks like you missed S.2590 Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006? Coburn sponsored, Obama was out-of-the-gate co-sponsor and IIRC pushed pretty hard for it; eventually had 47 co-sponsors and became public law 109-282. (Thomas entry here.)

Posted by: has407 on September 14, 2008 at 1:18 AM | PERMALINK


You know, thanks for the work and info Hilzoy. This is something I've been wondering about and not seen.

Good to know who really isn't engaged, MarkC.

Posted by: notthere on September 14, 2008 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

Oops, sorry, missed "The 109th is coming later."

Posted by: has407 on September 14, 2008 at 1:31 AM | PERMALINK

has -- yeah, I just went into a minor panic, thinking: hey, I know I entered that one -- before realizing that it was the 109th, and that I had entered it in the not finished 109th post.

McCain also co-sponsored that one, to his credit.

Posted by: hilzoy on September 14, 2008 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think the Thomas search results indicate much beyond the general interests of the candidate. I don't know why a Senator would want his name on a bill, but I believe that it is possible to promote or defeat a bill without leaving your fingerprints. I can only assume that the names are there for future political reference.

The Thomas results are meaningless to me. I've seen way to many "Debtor Relief Act" summaries which hide the true purpose of a bill. I no longer believe that the summaries are anything more than smoke.

I tried to find out what one amendment actually did. I picked "S.AMDT.1169 to S.1348" by Obama because (1) I'm familiar with the Immigration and Naturalization Act; and (2) I'm an Obama supporter. There is a section of that act which defines various classes of non-immigrant visas, e.g. 'A' is diplomats, B is visitor, 'H' is skilled worker, etc. This amendment limits the number of 'Y' visas by amending the definition. Except there is no such thing as a 'Y' visa. I could not find a definition for 'Y' visas in this act. They don't exist now. I imagine that the definition is in some other act which also failed.

The official summary is about as transparent as mud. Without knowing what a 'Y' visa is for and knowing how many were originally proposed I have know way of knowing whether amending the number to 200,000 is a good thing or a bad thing or even a thing at all.

Posted by: Chuck on September 14, 2008 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you for digging into this information. Recently I was wondering about the details of McCain's substantive legislative work. I wondered just how much he's actually done over his decades in the Senate, because I couldn't think of any actual legislation associated with him other than McCain-Feingold campaign finance. Is his record of McCain's most recent years (overlapping with Obama's Senate career) all that different from his overall work on legislation, as opposed to his obvious intense work at cultivating his Maverick reputation?

Posted by: Jacel on September 14, 2008 at 2:39 AM | PERMALINK

It's interesting that McCain, presumably from his Commerce Committee chairmanship, sponsors technical bills on broadband and radio. Do these bills promote access and competition, or protect the rents of vested interests?

"Hard-working middle income families" (McCain AMDT 477); is this really a term of art, or as I suppose just part of the packaging? Any conceivable law benefits or hurts layabouts too.

Posted by: James Wimberley on September 14, 2008 at 5:27 AM | PERMALINK

Nicely done, Hilzoy. Thanks for taking the time to do this research.

It does show a major gap in the amount and quality of legislative engagement and productivity, which can easily be traced to the fact that one of these guys is simply old as fuck.

Posted by: srkenny on September 14, 2008 at 8:01 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: kevin k on September 14, 2008 at 8:02 AM | PERMALINK

The last three posts - this one and its earlier companion, plus Benen's "minor" "context"-setting post on crowd size exaggeration - remind me of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. With McCain at 51-47 on Intrade, maybe we should instead be working on ideas that'll help turn this boat around?
Like what?
In the mean time throwing light on the lies based on evidence as a normal bounce subsides seems like an effective blow.
McShame on you!

Posted by: on September 14, 2008 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

Reading the works of Plato hope is always there.

Plato says, "If we disregard due proportion by giving anything what is too much for it; too much canvas to a boat, too much nutriment to a body, too much authority to a soul, the consequence is always shipwreck."

In the Laws, Plato applies this principle to electing a government in the ideal state: "Conducted in this way, the election will strike a mean between monarchy and democracy …"

For me one can apply economics to this theory, here, too much money given to that proportion so few is disregard for due proportion to the whole.

Jekyll Island economics is not working. For those who don’t know, Jekyll Island is a famous place where the most important banking system of America was born, of the time, 1913, very rich influential men got together to form the Federal Reserve. Here, secretly some of the wealthiest special interest groups in America formed our banking system. This system has been in operation for almost a century, so long it seems natural but so flat it is not working for everyone, especially middle and lower income Americans that put tax money into the system. Worse it is governed by a secret society connected and influenced by world powers. Essentially America does not have a free market, and never did.


Here is a web sight that offers some history; however, it goes off in tangents some what like I do. Laugh, Laugh…but for me it is only a short few years and the Internet that has given transparency to this economy thing with the Federal Reserve.


Read through some of this stuff, it does make sense to me perhaps not to some out there, but for very good reason the powers that be will likely not want to give up this wonderful way to have a good life at the expense of yours. Maybe I am wrong but I don’t think so because the mess the world is proof a huge imbalance in the economic system exists and really out of whack.

Posted by: Megalomania on September 14, 2008 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Chuck: that's why sometimes I add little comments that say what the bills actually do -- though I'm more likely to do that with truly impenetrable summaries, like "In the nature of a substitution", or something.

The Y Visa program was part of the comprehensive immigration bill that failed. Y visas were for temporary guest workers, iirc.

Posted by: hilzoy on September 14, 2008 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

Is there any way to find out how many bills a senator has authored? A commenter here once wrote that McCain has only authored 2 bills in his senate career(then voted against both of them), and I would like to find out if that is true. I asked FactCheck.org, but they didn't select my question to be answered.

Posted by: on September 14, 2008 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

I for one appreciate posts like this. There are a lot of uninformed voters out there--I met a bunch the other day at a Dems Abroad event. They want to vote for Obama, or maybe they haven't a clue, and the first question they ask invariably is, What's he done? It's a tricky question to answer, and of course we all know there is far more to the decision than just a voting record, but for most people, this is where they come in.

Having this compiled makes it easy for me to send a link later. Thanks.

Posted by: KathyF on September 14, 2008 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Hilzoy- Great work!

Posted by: Dorothy on September 14, 2008 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Hilzoy: I appreciate the research and I think it is important to know what the Senators wanted thier respective names on. I'd guess that the 'Y' visa was for some class not covered in 'E', 'H', 'I','L','O', or 'P' - which leaves unskilled workers. However I still don't know if this is a payoff to corporate sponsors, a way to further social justice or something in between. I intentionally put the corporate payoff at the other end of the scale from social justice.

I still don't understand how a Senator's name gets on a piece of legislation. I also am not clear on why he/she would want their name there.

Posted by: Chuck on September 14, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Blank: "Is there any way to find out how many bills a senator has authored?"

Depends what you mean by "authored". Most bills, I would imagine, are actually drafted by a Senator's staff, so in some hyper-literal sense it might be true that McCain has "authored" only a tiny number, if any. However, if you mean something -- well, saner, like 'how many bills has a Senator (plus staff) actually drafted?', I would think most bills sponsored by a Senator would fall into that category. If so, then McCain has authored a lot more than two bills.

You can find them by going here, and searching for McCain's bills in the Congress of your choice. (That's how I did it!) In the present Congress, McCain has introduced (as lead sponsor) 21 bills. And that's just this Congress.

Posted by: hilzoy on September 14, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

As John McCain gets older his legislative output has gotten less and less. He won't have the energy to do the job of President, so he isn't the person we need to be President in 2009.

Posted by: MarkH on September 14, 2008 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK



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