COMPETES Act scuttled by porn provision

COMPETES ACT SCUTTLED BY PORN PROVISION…. Just another day on Capitol Hill, where mature lawmakers, given enormous responsibilities, shape federal policy for 310 million people.

House Democrats had to scrap their only substantive bill of the week Thursday after Republicans won a procedural vote that substantively altered the legislation with an anti-porn clause.

Democrats had labeled their COMPETES Act — a bill to increase investments in science, research and training programs — as their latest jobs bill. It was the only non-suspension bill Democrats brought up all week.

But the Republican motion to recommit the bill — a parliamentary tactic that gives the minority one final chance to amend legislation — contained language prohibiting federal funds from going “to salaries to those officially disciplined for violations regarding the viewing, downloading, or exchanging of pornography, including child pornography, on a federal computer or while performing official government duties.”

Fearing campaign attack ads, 121 Dems voted for the Republican motion, fearing they might be labeled pro-porn. Democratic leaders ultimately pulled their bill from consideration and vowed to tried again next week.

“It’s absurd,” Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) said. “It’s specious, and it’s disgusting. And those are the nicest things I can say about it.”

I often wonder what Congress would be like if Republicans were serious about lawmaking and public policy. Maybe someday we’ll find out, but I don’t imagine that day will come soon.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.