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Congress Loves Snappy Acronyms

Updated: Jan 14, 2023

Judging by the titles of bills they propose, members of Congress occupy a space between used-car salesperson and poet. These naming devices can seem silly and contrived, especially when compared with the general soberness of Washington policy making. Yet congressional 'backronyms' have been on the rise for years - and currently account for around 10 percent of new bills.


US Capitol building

Over the past two years, according to The Atlantic, lawmakers in the 117th Congress have introduced the DAYLIGHT Act (Daylight All Year Leads to Ideal Gains in Happiness and Temperament), the ZOMBIE Act (Zeroing Out Money for Buying Influence after Elections), and the CROOK Act (Countering Russian and Other Overseas Kleptocracy). Some acronym names are so long it's easier to summarize the bill’s message in fewer letters: the CONFUCIUS Act (anti-China), the SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP Act (pro-U.K.), the CONSCIENCE Act (anti-vax).


These reverse-engineered acronyms, or “backronyms,” are inescapable on Capitol Hill. Two of the biggest laws of the past few years were the CARES Act, for pandemic relief, and the CHIPS for America Act, for semiconductor manufacturing. Since early 2021, members of Congress have introduced two separate AMIGOS Acts, two PROTECT Florida Acts, and four SHIELD Acts.


Looking back a bit further in time, some of the worst (or possibly greatest) congressional backronyms - intentional acronyms created by attention-seeking lawmakers, or more likely, their poor staffers - include:


CHOMP: Consumers Have Options for Molar Protection Act


STALKERS: Simplifying The Ambiguous Law, Keeping Everyone Reliably Safe Act


HELLO: Help Eliminate the Levy on Locution Act


SWEETEST: Saccharin Warning Elimination via Environmental Testing Employing Science and Technology Act


CHURCH: Congressional Hope for Uniform Recognition of Christian Heritage Act


PROSTATE: Prostate Research, Outreach, Screening, Testing, Access, and Treatment Effectiveness Act


STOP SMUT: Special Taxation On Pornographic Services and Marketing Using Telephones Act


CAN SPAM: Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act

 

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