What does Crest have to do with the border crisis?

Congress has one unique, albeit relatively useless, talent – creating ridiculous, often meaningless, acronyms for legislation.

The latest example comes from Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) who have strung some words together to name the border crisis bill they introduced Thursday.

It’s called the CREST Act: Children Returning on an Expedited and Safe Timeline Act. But CREST itself has as much to do with the border as “Colgate.” When asked if there was a broader connection to the immigration issue that we were missing, McCain’s office just said that “it’s an acronym.” So just a catchy word.

At least Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), in naming their border-related bill, tried to connect their acronym to the broader issue.

Theirs is the HUMANE Act: Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency. The bill would make it easier to more quickly deport unaccompanied Central American children. Perhaps humanely.

The Hill’s rampant acronym abuse is illustrated in this chart from Noah Veltman, a developer/journalist on the WNYC Data News team:

(Courtesy: Noah Veltman)

Veltman’s analysis of congressional acronym breaks down the top abusers over the last four decades. It should come as little surprise that leading the list with 42 acronym bills sponsored is the creative Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) In 2000, he had the ENFORCE Act: Effective National Firearms Objectives for Responsible, Commonsense Enforcement Act; in 2003 the SPAM Act: Stop Pornography and Abusive Marketing Act; and in 2013 the DAIRY Act: Dairy Augmentation for Increased Retail in Yogurt products.

Veltman points out that many acronyms attempt to relate to the subject of the bill, but some (like CREST) are just completely random.
His best example? The BABE RUTH Act: The Build America Bonds Extension for Rural and Urban Transportation and Highways Act, sponsored in 2011 by then-Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.).

He also finds the most overused acronym is “SAFE,” which reminds us of our favorite forced acronym of all time: SAFETEA-LU: Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users.

Why the hyphenated LU? It was a tribute from Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) to his wife, Lula.



Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.



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Colby Itkowitz · July 17, 2014

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