What do Arnold Palmer, Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, and a Louisville Slugger have in common? Each was honored with a bill or resolution by the 111th Congress this year. Even though Senate nominations are moving at a snail's pace, budget resolutions are seriously behind and health care has sucked all of the air out of the room for months, congressional leaders manage to find time to introduce─and pass─all sorts of quirky bills. Of course many of these ceremonial bills take little time to draft or debate. But with so many pressing issues before Congress, why bother at all? Probably because these bills are very meaningful to small but important constituencies. And they're a nice addition to one's congressional record. Here are a few of the more interesting ones we spotted.
Earlier this year, Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) introduced House Resolution 1243, designed "to provide for the award of a gold medal on behalf of Congress to Arnold Palmer in recognition of his service to the Nation in promoting excellence and good sportsmanship in golf." The Congressional Gold Medal is a symbol of national appreciation for significant achievements and contributions. Past recipients include Thomas Edison, Colin Powell, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr. Congress has broadened the scope of the award to include actors, authors, entertainers, musicians and athletes. Still, the past company of this award leaves one to wonder, does Arnold Palmer fit in? The bill is currently awaiting President Obama's approval.
Golf isn't the only sport being recognized, several professional football players have been honored this year as well. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) sponsored House Resolution 70 to honor past Super Bowl champion and NFL coach Tony Dungy. Former Buffalo Bills players Ralph Wilson Jr. and Bruce Smith were recognized by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) for being included in the 2009 Pro Football Hall of Fame. The resolution hailed Wilson and Smith for leading the Bills to multiple Super Bowl appearances in the early 1990s.
Even sports equipment has received a Congressional nod of approval. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) introduced H.R. 314 "saluting Hillerich & Bradsby Co. on the 125th anniversary of the Louisville Slugger." The Louisville Slugger is known as the official bat of Major League Baseball, and helped build the home-run careers of Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. This bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce where, no doubt, time was spent discussing the popular bat.
Hollywood actors have also been able to shine in Washington, D.C. Bea Arthur, best known as wisecracking Dorothy on The Golden Girls, was honored by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) after her death in May. Polis proudly recognized Arthur's advocacy work for women, gays and lesbians, and individuals suffering from AIDS and HIV. He went on to hail her professional roles and contributions in Fiddler on the Roof, Mame, and Maude.
In an somewhat unusual move, a band of fraternity brothers put aside partisan differences to pass a resolution this year. A slew of representatives referred a resolution to the Committee on Education and Labor to "congratulate the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity on the occasion of its 100th anniversary." Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), who sponsored the resolution, was a dedicated fraternity brother at Washington and Jefferson College located outside of Pittsburgh, Pa. Fellow supporters, including Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Rep. John Kingston (R-Ga.), and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), were members of the same fraternity in college.
Fraternities aside, the sheer athleticism or talent of these honorees is undeniable. But after the multi-million dollar contracts, Super Bowl rings, Hall of Fame inductions, and Emmy awards─is it Congress's job to honor these individuals once again? Or are there more productive ways to allocate time?