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McCain, Flake, others go all OUTT on naming bills: Overdoing the Unrelated Title Thing

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 whether 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-Tex.) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.), 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 acronym abuse has risen dramatically in the past 40 years. Noah Veltman, a developer/journalist on the WNYC Data News Team, found that almost no bills had acronyms in the 1970s and ’80s, compared with 6­ percent of all bills with catchy names today.

Veltman’s analysis of congressional acronyms breaks down the top abusers over the past 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.

Veltman’s 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.

Your AK, I’m okay

The Russian government is concerned about what new sanctions against the Russian AK-47 maker Kalashnikov Concern will mean for American gun owners.

The Russian Embassy tweeted a story from Russian wire service ITAR-TASS, and wrote: “Sanctions against Kalashnikov corporation run counter to interests of US customers.”

The story is a brief interview with a spokesman from the gun manufacturer who says Americans are loyal customers of the popular automatic assault weapons. There are said to be 100 million of its rifles around the world.

“This means that the sanctions the US Administration has imposed on Kalashnikov contravene the interests of US consumers,” the ITAR-TASS article quoted the Kalashnikov spokesman as saying.

The Loop called the NRA to see if it agreed but received no response.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked about Russia’s assertion Thursday and said the U.S. government takes “into account, of course, any impact on U.S. businesses, U.S. consumers, as we make these decisions.”

She said she did not know what the specific impact would be on American AK-47 buyers.

Helpfully, the Treasury Department put out a FAQ on that.

So if you are a worried Kalashnikov fan, Treasury promises that if you like your AK-47, you can keep your AK-47. You can even sell it privately. But you can’t buy a new one, and if you haven’t fully paid for your Kalashnikov, then call the Office of Foreign Assets Control for guidance.

Say cheese, please

A sticking point in the trade negotiations between the United States and the European Union is American cheese producers’ use of the traditional European names for cheeses. Bottom line: The Europeans don’t want U.S.-made feta called “feta.” Same goes for cheddar and gruyere, etc.

But Michael Punke, the U.S. deputy trade representative and the ambassador to the World Trade Organization, detects some hypocrisy in all the Euro-whining.

During a trade hearing Wednesday, Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), whose state is synonymous with cheese, asked Punke whether disagreements over “geographic indicators” — the technical term for the name of a product connected with a specific place — would make a trade deal with the E.U. “insurmountable.”

“This will be of interest to you, I think, congressman, and that is I’ve discovered the phenomena of something called German feta cheese. And I’ve also discovered the phenomena of something called French gruyere,” Punke said, according to a transcript of the hearing. “And I’m not an expert on cheese the way that people from your state might be, but I do know that gruyere is not in France. [It’s in Switzerland, by the way.] And so that’s the type of anomaly that we’re pointing out to our European colleagues in trying to address this issue of geographic indications in the context” of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

EPA official turns the page

The Environmental Protection Agency’s No. 2 guy is resigning after a career at the agency that spans two decades.

Bob Perciasepe, the agency’s deputy administrator, will lead an environmental advocacy group, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

A Washington policy fixture, Perciasepe worked on clean air and clean water issues during the Clinton administration. He held a top job at the National Audubon Society, and in 2009 President Obama named him deputy at EPA.

When Obama’s first EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, stepped down, some thought Perciasepe, who stepped in as acting head, would get the job. Instead, Gina McCarthy was Obama’s pick, but the Loop reported then that the president may have personally called Perciasepe to ask him to stay on.

— With Colby Itkowitz

Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
Colby Itkowitz is the lead anchor of the Inspired Life blog. She previously covered the quirks of national politics and the federal government.

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