Durbin: Bounties over budgets?

posted at 9:50 am on March 23, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday, John Boehner complained about the irresponsibility of the Democratic majority in the Senate, which has gone three years without fulfilling their constitutional duty to produce a budget.  As the House Budget Committee worked on a markup, Boehner told the press that Senate Democrats had done “nothing” on one of their primary jobs since 2009:

“We’re over here in the House actually working on a budget; going through the real work that it takes to come to grips with our fiscal problems,” Boehner said at his weekly press briefing at the Capitol.

“The Senate’s done nothing. There have been no markups over in the Senate. There ain’t even been any effort in the Senate – 3 years, 3 years and they’ve failed to move a budget.”

Well, to be fair, Senate Democrats have been buried in important work.  In fact, the Senate majority’s #2 leader Dick Durbin announced yesterday that the Senate would begin hearings on an emergency problem in the US:

A Senate Judiciary subcommittee will hold a hearing on the bounty system allegedly used by several National Football League teams – one day after top coaches from the New Orleans Saints were suspended as punishment for a program that awarded players with cash if they injured their opponents.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who will chair the hearing, said Thursday the committee will also investigate whether federal sports bribery laws need to be changed to include sports bounty programs. The date for the hearing has yet to be announced, but Durbin said it will occur after the Easter recess.

“We will have a hearing and put on the record what sports leagues and teams at the professional and collegiate levels are doing to make sure that there’s no place in athletics for these pay-to-[maim] bounties,” Durbin said on the Senate floor Thursday. “I want to hear the policies and practices in each of the major sports and collegiate sports that are being put in place.”

Yes, because the business of budgeting is so much less central to the mission of the Senate than, er, how college and professional football coaches incentivize their players.  But give Durbin credit — he’s stretching the federal government’s jurisdiction out more than a Devin Hester kickoff runback in order to stick his nose into the NFL’s business:

But moving forward, the NFL and other leagues must “come up with standards to make sure this isn’t going to happen again,” he said. Otherwise, lawmakers will need to “at least explore whether it is necessary to have federal legislation in this area.”

One possibility, Durbin explained, would be to extend federal sports bribery laws to cover bounties, so that “if someone offers in a team sports situation some sort of value, money or otherwise, to intentionally hurt another player, that, in fact, would be a crime.”

Federal bribery laws?  You mean the one that a state lawmaker from Durbin’s Illinois got charged with breaking, a politician that Durbin’s party endorsed on Monday before the election, and then tossed under the bus afterward? Those bribery statutes?  Um, okay.  Since when did NFL players become public officials?

Senate Democrats are fundamentally unserious, from leadership down.  That’s nothing new, but it would be nice if the media noticed it and pointed it out once in a while.


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