I was poised to scold Frank J. Fedele for misusing the word "bravado" in his recent letter to the Sun-Gazette ("It's about time," February 5, 2012) when, on further reflection, it occurred to me that Mr. Fedele just might be on to something.
"Bravado," of course, means something like "blustering swaggering conduct," "a pretense of bravery," or "the quality or state of being foolhardy," and I had first thought that Mr. Fedele had misused the word in referring to Rep. Tom Marino's introduction of his "One Subject at a Time" Act. Certainly, I thought, Mr. Fedele meant "bravery" or "courage."
But then I read the bill which Mr. Marino actually introduced - H.R.3806.IH - and it turns out Mr. Fedele was right: the bill represents "the quality or state of being foolhardy" (although Mr. Fedele seems to the praising the bill, which is another matter.)
For example, Mr. Marino's bill requires that "Each bill or joint resolution shall embrace no more than one subject." Now, this seems to make some sense, if indeed the bill, as Mr. Fedele puts it, "will help eliminate some of the pandering and cronyism in the pathetic way legislation is presently handled."
But would it? What, after all, is a "subject"? Could "subject" mean that a single bill could be written to cover, say, the funding of all Federal government programs - the "This Bill Covers Everything Act of 2012," for example? On the other hand, writ small "subject" could mean that a separate bill might be needed to determine each Federal employee's salary. (With about two million civilian employees, that would mean, if Congress spent just one minute passing each bill, over two hundred 24-hour days just to pass the Federal payroll, leaving not much time for things like national defense.)
Second, Mr. Marino's bill requires that "the subject of a bill or joint resolution shall be clearly and descriptively expressed in the title." But note the clarity in Mr. Marino's own H.R.3417, the title of which is "To amend the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century to modify requirements relating to an addition to Corridor O in Pennsylvania on the Appalachian development highway system" - a title that was only eleven words shorter than the bill itself!
How is Mr. Marino's bill faring in the Congress? Since the bill was introduced on January 23, it has attracted to date exactly one co-sponsor in the House - not what I'd call a ringing endorsement of the bill. (Although, to be fair, that one co-sponsor for one of Mr. Marino's bills isn't bad. Of the seven bills he's introduced, three - including that highway bill - have attracted no co-sponsors at all. Bravado? Yes. Effective legislation? Hardly.
Lawrence F. Bassett
Submitted by Virtual Newsroom