Behold: The (Blank) Act of (Blankety-Blankety-Blank-Blank)

White House photo/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/3484010807/">Pete Souza</a> (<a href="http://www.usa.gov/copyright.shtml">Government Work</a>).

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Bills change a lot on the way to becoming a law. Their contents change as members of the House and Senate push pet provisions. They get longer (or shorter) and more (or less) expensive. Even their names change. Sometimes, that can lead to mistakes. Take House Resolution (HR) 1586, a bill originally intended to modernize the air traffic control system (and reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration). In August, the Senate gutted the bill and used the HR number as a vehicle to provide money to save teacher jobs and Medicaid aid for the states. There’s just one problem: somewhere along the way, the bill lost its name. That’s right: the teacher jobs bill (as passed by the House and the Senate and enrolled for the president to sign) is called the “XXXXXXAct ofXXXX.” And they didn’t just make the mistake once. They made it twice. There are two substitute amendments to the bill with blank-blankety-blankety-blank names. 

Sure, the important thing is that states got money to save teacher jobs and close budget gaps. But it’s still funny that Congress doesn’t even bother to name its bills anymore. And no one seems to care. After all, this isn’t a secret. It’s in the congressional record. It’s possible that a change was made after the bill was passed and sent to the president (a procedure known as an “enrollment correction”). I’ve asked the Government Printing Office for a copy of the bill signed by the president to see if that happened. But if that wasn’t done, the president himself had to have seen the funny name when he signed the bill on August 10. It’s right at the top:

SHORT TITLE

Section 1. This Act may be cited as the `XXXXXXAct ofXXXX’.

Here’s a screengrab:

Check all this out for yourself in THOMAS, the Library of Congress’ congressional database. Here’s the timeline. Here’s the list of versions of the bill. And here’s the bill itself, as passed by the House and Senate and enrolled for the President’s signature. Read it and weep.

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