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house Bill H.R. 2240

Should Each Bill in Congress Only Address One Subject?

Argument in favor

For the sake of transparency, members of Congress need to stop writing and passing bills that address multiple unrelated policy issues. Multi-subject bills may deceptively include policies that lawmakers and the public overlook because of misleading titles.

Argument opposed

It’s not practical to expect Congress to only introduce bills that deal with one subject area, they only have a finite amount of time in session and need to address a wide variety of policies. Combining unrelated, unobjectionable bills saves time.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedApril 10th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 2240?

This bill would require each bill or joint resolution introduced in Congress to embrace only one subject, and that subject must be descriptively expressed in the legislation’s title. Aggrieved persons and members of Congress would have the right to sue the U.S. to seek relief, including an injunction, against the enforcement of a law passed in a manner that didn’t conform with the one subject requirement.

Appropriations bills would be prohibited from containing any general legislation or including any change of existing law requirements if the subject of a provision isn’t germane to the appropriation bill’s subject.

Legislation that meets the following criteria would be declared void:

  • An entire Act or joint resolution if its title addresses two or more unrelated subjects;
  • Provisions in legislation not clearly and descriptively expressed in the measure’s title;
  • Appropriation provisions in legislation outside the relevant subcommittee’s jurisdiction;
  • Provisions of appropriation bills not germane to their subject matter.

Impact

The American public; Congressional staffers; and members of Congress.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 2240

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-ID) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to create a rule requiring that each bill in Congress cover a single topic, thereby ensuring individual votes on each subject and ending the practice of large omnibus bills: 

“In Idaho, legislative bills are limited to a single subject and are voted on separately. This practice has held every legislator accountable to their constituents because each bill has a separate and transparent vote. As the House of Representatives looks at proposals to modernize Congress, I believe the One Subject at a Time Act needs to be part of the conversation. This proposal will end ‘back room deals,’ large ‘must-pass’ bills, and restore trust in our representative government.”

Last Congress, sponsoring Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) introduced this bill to increase transparency in the lawmaking process by requiring that Congress only address one subject in a given piece of legislation:

“For too long, the legislative branch has failed to address legislative priorities in a transparent manner. Congress has habitually passed large, must-pass bills at the last minute. Loosely related and controversial provisions are frequently attached to these bills under pressure from outside organizations, who know that their best chance to address pet projects is a must-pass bill. Such provisions ride the host legislation like a parasite, forcing members of Congress to either accept a pyrrhic victory by taking the good with the bad, or reject it outright at the expense of the good. The American people deserve better from their elected officials.My bill would require Congress to consider only one subject per bill or resolution. Every legislative provision would be forced to stand on its own two legs, rather than hitching a ride on a stronger host, and make its case to the American people.”

This bill has seven Republican cosponsors in the current session of Congress. In the 115th Congress, it had 27 Republican House cosponsors in the House and didn't receive a committee vote. A Senate version last Congress, sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), didn't have any cosponsors and didn't see committee actionThis bill has been introduced in five Congressional sessions, including the 116th.

Of Note: According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 41 states have provisions within their state constitutions that require bills in their legislature to only deal with a single subject. There are also 15 states that require initiatives to only cover a single subject to receive a spot on the ballot.

Omnibus bills — which this bill would eliminate — are large funding packages that concern hundreds of government agencies, topics, and interests. Rep. Fulcher's office says these bills are disingenuous, and have contributed to the ballooning national debt: 
"Typically, these packages (in 2018, over 2,000 pages) include massive government waste and overspending along with priorities that have broad support by Members of Congress such as, veterans care, funding for homeland security, pay for our military troops, and district programs like PILT. This creates a disingenuous situation for Members and has no doubt been a facet of our exploding $22 trillion national debt."

Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Flickr user Circa Sassy / Creative Commons)

AKA

One Subject at a Time Act

Official Title

To end the practice of including more than one subject in a single bill by requiring that each bill enacted by Congress be limited to only one subject, and for other purposes.

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