Congress keeps cranking out those commemorative days, weeks
Washington — Most people have never heard of ''American Enterprise Day,'' let alone ''National Get High on Life Week.'' But these are just a few of the dozens of special ''days'' or ''weeks'' commemorated in resolutions that Congress adopts every session.
And to the consternation of one senator, the list is growing, despite his best efforts to do something about it. Wyoming Republican Alan K. Simpson has been keeping track of the commemoratives that the Senate Judiciary Committee has processed over the past few years - more than 135 during the 98th Congress alone.
Senator Simpson says he thinks so many commemorative resolutions pass through the committee that they have become meaningless. ''I don't know what purpose they serve,'' he says.
Back in June 1980, Simpson, along with Sens. Max Baucus (D) of Montana and Howell Heflin (D) of Alabama, managed to push through a requirement they hoped would stem the tide of commemoratives. Each proposed resolution must now have 25 cosponsors in addition to its chief sponsor, including at least 10 senators from each political party.
But that hasn't held back the flood of new resolutions. Senators are all too willing to accommodate one another it seems. But Simpson will neither sponsor nor support resolutions, except ''in the most unusual and extraordinary circumstances.''
He tells this to constitutents in firm but polite language, pointing out that printing costs alone for these resolutions exceed $200,000 each Congress.
Just exactly what commemorative resolutions accomplish is not clear. Some serve as vehicles for educational or fund-raising efforts. Others allow a senator to pat a hometown boy on the back. Mostly, the resolutions merely give a senator an opportunity to please a particular group of constituents, local or national.
On occasion, however, the effort can boomerang. Early in May, Sen. Robert Dole (R) of Kansas, put a resolution on the Judiciary Committee agenda to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision, which struck down school segregation laws.
Senator Dole has generally been considered a friend of the civil rights movement, and the Brown resolution was a small gesture timed to coincide with a Washington, D.C., celebration of the decision.
But Supreme Court decisions can be tricky business. Sen. John P. East (R) of North Carolina, who also serves on the Judiciary Committee, objected to the Dole resolution. After a week to think about it, Dole took the line of least resistance. He withdrew it.