'Provided That' You Speak English, You'll Understand Stimulus Bill 'Except' When You Don't
The $819-billion bill, which passed the House of Representatives last week and moved on to the Senate this week, is full of convoluted and almost impenetrable language--including more than one hundred uses of one form or another of the word "except."
The 680-page stimulus bill passed by the House on Wednesday contains 106 uses of the words “except” or “exception.”
The resulting document is unusually opaque, with passages that confuse even those familiar with the obscure lexicon of congressional legislation.
Page 368, for instance, which deals with money for low-income housing, is typical. It says:
“Any such subaward with respect to any qualified low-income building shall be made in the same manner and shall be subject to the same limitations (including rent, income, and use restrictions on such building) as an allocation of housing credit dollar amount allocated by such State housing credit agency under section 42 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, except that such subawards shall not be limited by, or otherwise affect (except as provided in subsection (h)(3)(J) of such section), the State housing credit ceiling applicable to such agency.”
The language of the bill is made additionally obscure by frequent references to previous legislation. In addition to the 106 instances of "except" or “exceptions,” there are 560 uses of “provided”-- many of which are clustered together in the same clauses.
For example, on page 252, a section regarding transit capital assistance grants includes the following seven uses of "provided" in 39 lines of text:
“For transit capital assistance grants, $6,000,000,000 (increased by $1,500,000,000), of which $5,400,000,000 (increased by $1,350,000,000) shall be for grants under 5 section 5307 of title 49, United States Code and shall be apportioned in accordance with section 5336 of such title (other than subsections (i)(1) and (j)) but may not be combined or commingled with any other funds apportioned under such section 5336, and of which $600,000,000 (increased by $150,000,000) shall be for grants under section 5311 of such title and shall be apportioned in accordance with such section 5311 but may not be combined or commingled with any other funds apportioned under that section: Provided, That of the funds provided for section 5311 under this heading, 3 percent shall be made available for section 5311(c)(1): Provided further, That applicable chapter 53 requirements shall apply except that the Federal share of the costs for which a grant is made under this heading shall be, at the option of the recipient, up to 100 percent: Provided further, In lieu of the requirements of section 1103 of this Act, funds made available under this heading shall be apportioned not later than 7 days after the date of enactment of this Act: Provided further, That for purposes of applying section 1104 of this 25 253 Act to this appropriation, the deadline for grantees to enter into obligations to make use of not less than 50 percent of the funds awarded shall be 90 days after apportionment: Provided further, That the provisions of section 1101(b) of Public Law 109–59 shall apply to funds made available under this heading: Provided further, That not-withstanding any other provision of law, of the funds apportioned in accordance with section 5336, up to three-quarters of 1 percent shall be available for administrative expenses and program management oversight and of the funds apportioned in accordance with section 5311, up to one-half of 1 percent shall be available for administrative expenses and program management oversight and both amounts shall remain available for obligation until September 30, 2012: Provided further, That the preceding proviso shall apply in lieu of the provisions in section 1106 of this Act.”
Other passages, though relatively short by comparison, are still difficult to decipher due to the abundance of provisions and exceptions, including this excerpt from page 201 on funding for education:
“For an additional amount for ‘Student Financial Assistance’ to carry out subpart 1 of part A and part C 202 of title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (‘HEA), $16,126,000,000, which shall remain available through September 30, 2011: Provided, That $15,636,000,000 shall be available for subpart 1of part A of title IV of the HEA: Provided further, That $490,000,000 shall be available for part C of title IV of the HEA, of which $245,000,000 shall become available on October 1, 2009: Provided further, That the provisions of section 1106 of this Act shall not apply to this appropriation.”
The granddaddy of all passages, meanwhile -- one involving highway infrastructure investment -- occurs on page 246. The single paragraph continues for nearly four pages.