The U.S. Senate has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on printing costs associated with passing simple resolutions declaring observances such as “National Chess Day,” “National Safe Digging Month” and the “Year of Water.”
Those measures were sponsored by West Virginia Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, and Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall respectively.
During this 112th Congress alone, the Senate has passed or agreed to 318 simple resolutions and introduced over 100 more.
Based on a detailed accounting of printing processes by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service and an accounting of expenses described by the Government Printing Office, a conservative estimate for the cost of the printing process alone is $1,200 for each simple resolution that passes. Since January 2011, then, the largely symbolic measures have cost taxpayers at least $381,600, not including the human resources and other costs related to bringing about the legislation itself.
The Senate defines simple resolutions as those ”used to express nonbinding positions of the Senate or to deal with the Senate’s internal affairs, such as the creation of a special committee. They do not require action by the House of Representatives.”
This Congress, while there have been some simple resolutions dictating the internal affairs of the Senate, the vast majority have been feel-good statements and declarations.
A sampling includes:
S.Res. 161: A resolution designating May 2011, as “National Inventors Month” (sponsored by Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy)
S.Res. 452: A resolution designating July 13, 2012, as “Collector Car Appreciation Day” and recognizing that the collection and restoration of historic and classic cars is an important part of preserving the technological achievements and cultural heritage of the United States (sponsored by Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester)
S.Res. 199: A resolution supporting the goals and ideals of “Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week” (sponsored by Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid)
- S.Res.292 : A resolution designating the week beginning October 16, 2011, as “National Character Counts Week” (sponsored by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley)
S.Res. 383: A resolution designating February 29, 2012, as “Rare Disease Day” (sponsored by Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown)
S.Res. 325: A resolution recognizing the 2012 World Choir Games in Cincinnati, Ohio, as a global event of cultural significance to the United States (sponsored by Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman)
S.Res. 284: A resolution designating September 23, 2011, as “National Falls Prevention Awareness Day” to raise awareness and encourage the prevention of falls among older adults (sponsored by Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl)
S.Res. 235: A resolution designating 2011 as “The Year of the Family Caregiver” (sponsored by Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski)
Seventy-eight percent of the simple resolutions introduced in the current Senate had Democratic primary sponsors.
Simple resolutions do not have the force of law, but there are examples where the populace acts upon them as if they did — including “National Direct Support Professional Recognition Week” (sponsored by Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson), “Worldwide Day of Play” (sponsored by New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand) and “National Wildlife Refuge Week” (sponsored by Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons).