Well, just a couple days before the session is over, I see that the bill is on the “special orders calendar” scheduled for a floor vote and I race over to the Majority Leader to see what’s up. She tells me that because the bill is being authored by a fellow Democrat and because there is such a powerful lobby behind the bill, she has to allow it to be voted upon. So I race back to my office to tell the class-action lawyers that this bill coming up for a vote basically eliminates the grounds for our law suit. Together we devise two amendments I can offer on the House Floor that on the surface appear innocuous and just designed to make the bill slightly better for the little guys; but in actuality they were “killer amendments” that would totally gut the bill. Because consumer finance law is so highly technical, unless you’re an expert consumer finance lawyer, the killer nature of the amendments wouldn’t be obvious to anyone else.
Of course, on the House Floor, I just explained the “makes the bill better for the little guys” part, and, as I hoped, the author of the bill didn’t recognize their killer nature. Great! The amendments pass even though I’m just a freshman legislator going up against a seasoned veteran. Then I rise to speak again and tell my colleagues that even with these amendments, it’s still a bad bill and should be voted down – which is what happened. When the afternoon floor session ends, as I’m walking out the Chambers door, there’s the lobbyist for the loan industry really mad: “You G—Damn S.O.B.” he says, “You killed my bill and made it impossible for any of your poor constituents to ever get a loan again!” “Well Joe,” I said, “you know I told you I didn’t like your bill, but you never came to visit me about it.”
That night the Housing Conference Committee which I am on (5 Senators and 5 Reps.) met for the last time and “buttoned-up” the Housing Bill which had my million dollars in it. (To “button-up” means to take the last committee vote and nothing is suppose to change between then and the floor votes.) I am in TOTAL JUBLIATION for the day’s successes! and go to the Holiday Inn next to the Capitol to hoist a cold one with any other legislators who happen to be around. After an hour I go back to the Capitol wanting to prolong the euphoria by soaking up the action in the other conference committees that hadn’t buttoned-up yet. I run into the Chairman of the Housing Conference Committee: “Say, I’ve got some bad news for you, the Senate Majority Leader needed a million dollars for a program in his district, and since you’re just a freshman, we took your million and gave it to him.” “You can’t do that!” I protested, “The bill’s been buttoned-up.” But apparently they can.
Tomorrow: Things Get Worse