Pssst, here's how the LTC lobby can eliminate the 3-day rule — and gain other Congressional perks

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

You might not be old enough to remember the “Schoolhouse Rock” videos that aired between cartoons on Saturday mornings during the 1970s. One of my favorites was “I'm Just a Bill.”

The three-minute segment offers an entertaining look at how legislation moves through Congress.

Considering the many millions of dollars the nursing home field spends each year on various lobbying efforts, “I'm Just a Bill” is probably a nice way for novices to get a general sense of the lawmaking process.

But as a wise man once said, stories always have two versions: the official and the real.

My sneaking suspicion is that for many laws and their contents, the truth is probably a lot closer to a narrative recently laid out by former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Writing in Bloomberg Businessweek, he notes that when it comes to gaining perk-filled legislation, the devil truly is in the details.

It's hard to read the suggestions offered by this insider and convicted felon without becoming just a bit jaded. Among his tips for getting favorable legislative treatment:

  • Get close to the person who's really pushing the bill, and insist that the American public is the real beneficiary.
  • Have your perk written in a way that is “utterly and completely devoid of meaning to any normal intelligent person, and so narrowly targeted to a specific provision of the code that anyone else reading it won't know what it is.”
  • As much as possible, prevent possibly-opposed members of Congress from discovering your perk before it becomes law.

Abramoff readily admits that practitioners of this dysfunctional kabuki dance are “killing our country.” But he hastens to add that until the system is changed, “that's how the sausage is made.”

It's possible that some people will become so outraged by these shenanigans that they'll scream “There ought to be a law!” If that's the case, they'd better be careful what they ask for.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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