The Ambivalent Senator (with thanks to sdaddy!)

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THE AMBIVALENT SENATOR

Online gambling's biggest opponent has a flexible attitude to legislative add-ons, it seems.

Arizona senator Jon Kyl has developed a reputation over the years as a virulently anti-online gambling politician prepared to use all manner of political twists and turns in his quest to ban those variations of Internet gambling which he regards as harmful and immoral. These do not include his notorious exceptions for horse racing, state lotteries and fantasy sports, however.

This seeming ambivalence extends into the political methods used to push legislation through Congress, it appears from reports this week.

Kyl's involvement and enthusiastic support for the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act seemed to indicate a wholehearted approval for the quaint US political process whereby stalled legislation can be pushed through Congress on the coat tails of urgent bills, even though there is no relationship between the two.

This was the method used by Senator Bill Frist to push the UIGEA through a late night session of Congress just before the last electioneering recess, attached to the totally unrelated but "must pass" Safe Ports bill.

However, it appears from utterances this week in Congress that Senator Kyl is nothing if not flexible when it comes to issues that do not suit his point of view. Speaking on a proposal to continue funding the war in Iraq, the Senator opposed some provisions aimed at setting a timetable for US withdrawal from the region.

At one point he criticised the bill because it has unrelated spending items attached that wouldn't otherwise pass.

According to the Congressional Record on the debate on the US Troop Readiness, Veteran's Health and Iraq Accountability Act 2007, the Senator is reported to have said:

"It is amazing to me, and I won't get into all the pork that is in this bill, but here we have a security supplemental, emergency funding to support the troops, and we decide to lard it up with all manner of items that are not emergencies, have nothing to do with supporting the troops, but because everybody knows this is a must-pass bill, they figure this is a real good opportunity for them to get things in the bill that might otherwise be very difficult to pass in the Congress."

That sounds very much like the UIGEA add-on last year, which had equally little urgency or relevance to the Safe Ports Act.

For the record, the sort of thing other politicians were trying to attach to the military bill were to do with appropriations for guided tours of the US Capitol; for mine safety research; sugar beet and sugar cane funding and a $100 million request for domestic security related to the Republican and Democratic Presidential nominating conventions....in 2008.

Kyl makes the point again as he concludes: "Do my colleagues hear what I am saying? Politicians have decided this is a good train to get on board because it has to move, we have to fund the troops. Since it is hard for us to get the Senate and the House to act on these items otherwise, we will just try to attach them to this bill."

"Political expediency" is a phrase that seems to just about cover it, but this sort of ambivalence resulted in billions of dollars of international investment and business being lost in the UIGEA and its aftermath.
 

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