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Reminder to U.S. Senate: All those commemorations come with costs

August 03, 2012|By Richard Simon
  • Chess is one thing, a commemoration of National Chess Day is something else -- and shouldn't be paid for out of the U.S. Treasury, some senators say.
Chess is one thing, a commemoration of National Chess Day is something else… (Katie Falkenberg / For The…)

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senatehas paid tribute to National Chess Day. Now it’s Sen. Jim DeMint’s move.  

The South Carolina Republican and several of his Senate colleagues have introduced legislation that would require senators to pay for such commemorative resolutions out of their office budgets rather than from the U.S. Treasury.

The money comes from the taxpayers in either case, but DeMint says the printing of symbolic resolutions has "gotten out of hand.’’ His fellow senators are likely to be more judicious about introducing such resolutions if they have to dip into their office budgets to pay the printing costs, he says.

Scores of commemorative resolutions have come before the Senate this session. Among them have been acknowledgements of the National Day of the American Cowboy and World Plumbing Day and congratulations to the Los Angeles Kings on winning the 2012 Stanley Cup.  

"If we can’t responsibly pay for the small things, then how are we going to do the big things necessary to finally get spending under control in Washington?” asked Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), one of the bill’s cosponsors.

"The recipients of these honors can and should feel great for being recognized by Congress, but the recipients of the printing bill -- the nation's taxpayers -- deserve a little consideration too,’’ said Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union.

A Government Printing Office spokesman could not immediately provide a figure on the total cost for printing resolutions. But DeMint believes the cost could be hundreds of thousands of dollars, saying the number of resolutions has nearly doubled, from 247 in 2001-02 to 493 in 2009-10.

His "Pay for Printing Act,’’  which has the support of at least one Democrat, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, is being pushed after House Republican leaders scaled back votes on commemorative resolutions, contending they wasted floor time needed for more pressing matters.

That hasn’t stopped lawmakers from finding other ways to commemorate anniversaries important to their districts.  Rep. Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) was recently on the House floor holding up a can of Spam and declaring "Happy 75th birthday, Spam!’’

Supporters of the resolutions say they bring deserved recognition to individuals and groups and attention to important causes while providing moments of bipartisan good cheer in an otherwise divisive Capitol. They also can be politically important to lawmakers.

As for National Chess Day, a spokesman for the resolution’s sponsor, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV(D-W.Va.) said: "We feel pretty strongly that more kids with nimble minds playing chess and fewer kids sitting on couches eating Cheetos and playing video games would be better for everyone. So encouraging chess, and recognizing the millions of people who already play chess, is a worthwhile effort.”

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richard.simon@latimes.com

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