Want to pass a controversial law? Why debate it? Why discuss it? Why hold hearings about it? Just slip it into a massive budget bill that nobody could possibly vote against. And it gets through.
I don’t know if such a technique has a name, but I’d call it something like “stealth legislation.” It is the tactic of attaching a particular legislative measure to a bill that’s sure to pass. This what is happening with the 9th Circuit split. The 9th Circuit is a large unweildy federal court covering the entire West Coast. For years, proposals to split it up have been discussed, but little progress has been made. That’s because California accounts for the lion’s share of the cases, nobody wants to split off California into its own circuit court, and nobody wants to split California in half or into pieces. The problem has been difficult and there’s been a big struggle over resolving it.
But instead of debating the issue, of resolving it through a legitimate legislative process, some in Congress have chosen a different approach:
Their proposal to split the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stalled in the U.S. Senate last year. So House Republicans have taken a new approach this year: Attach a split proposal to a provision for new judgeships and tuck it into a $35 billion spending-cut bill.
While the House voted last year to split the 9th Circuit, the Senate blocked a similar bill, with even some Republicans voting against it. So the latest split proposal is structured to sidestep debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee and discussion on the floor, reaching the Senate only in the budget conference committee.