Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Can Congress Read?

"If every member pledged to not vote for {the health care bill} if they hadn't read it in its entirety, I think we would have very few votes."

-- House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD)

This was Mr. Hoyer's response when asked about a petition being circulated asking House members to read everything they vote on. Mr. Hoyer believed the thought of members reading what they vote on was worth a few chuckles on camera. Quite often members and their staff don't read the bills they vote on. Some of this is laziness and some of it is due to the size and speed Congress now passes legislation. For example, the Stimulus Bill was 1,100 pages long (at a price of $787 Trillion) and members were given 13 hours to review the full bill before it passed. The Cap and Trade bill was 1,200 pages and had a 300 page amendment added at 3 AM the day it was voted on. The final version of the Cap and Trade bill didn't exist in written form when it passed the House. A printed copy of the U. S. Constitution is only about 10 pages long.

To be fair, this is not a Democrat only issue. The 108th Congress, which was controlled by Republicans, passed 2,900 pages worth of legislation in a combined 48 hours (at the bargain price of slightly less than $1 Trillion). Both Republicans and Democrats have been embarrassed when provisions of these bills finally saw the light of day. Republicans were surprised to find their Ominbus spending bill included a provision to allow Republican leaders to review anyone's tax return they choose. Democrats outraged voters when it was discovered the Stimulus bill included provisions for AIG bonuses after the government bailed them out. After campaign finance reform passed in 2003, members had to hire experts to tell them exactly what was in the bill they just passed.

Most people would probably say this is a problem. President Obama campaigned on a 5 day period for bills to be posted on the internet and reviewed by the public. Conservative, liberal, and libertarian groups have all started petitions to get lawmakers to read what they vote on.

If bills are too long to read, they shouldn't be passed. If it can't be read in the time members get to debate it, they should take more time to review the bill. Our expectations of our representatives are so low, we wonder if we can make them read something that may tax us or our children. We give them a pass on legislation that may outlaw things we do, limit our freedoms, or may affect our children. In a reality, when they vote on something they haven't read, they abuse their power and insult their constituents. It isn't enough to read a summary a lobbyist puts in their hand. If they can't read the bill, why are they even there?


Brandon said...


One small correction, the stimulus was for $787 billion, not trillion. One huge first step would be a measure that ends the practice of attaching rider bills to must pass legislation.

Andy D said...

Good catch, Brandon. Congress swaps around Millions and Billions and Trillions. Looks like I fell into the same trap.

I think there is very little legislation that should be considered "must pass".

saint said...

For those of you out there that deal with contracts, what would happen if you just signed contracts without reading them?

pack04 said...

your interest rates would go up and you would foreclose on your house. Then the government will bail you out because you are stupid and screw all the other people that did read the contract and follow the conditions of it and now can't sell their house.

Of course what is the point of reading contracts when the government will just override them and do what ever they find "fair."

of course saint that was probably just a rhetorical question but I have some anger and it felt a little good to vent.

Andy D said...

The new health care bill is over 1,000 pages and Obama is pushing for it to be passed before the August recess. Who's going to read it?

pack04 said...

I would also ask can American's read or think?

From reading reports on the bill the plan is to require people to buy insurance. Those that can't afford insurance we are going to give it to them. To pay for that we are going to tax companies and families with big incomes. How is that going to be cheaper? Tax people or force them to pay does not sound like less money out of pocket.

I also saw this:
Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., who presided over the health committee vote, said it was more important to get a good bill than to get GOP votes. "There is a value in achieving bipartisanship but I will not sacrifice a good bill for that. That's not the goal here."

So the goal is to ignore the people that represent 40% (122 million) of the country to make a law that will affect 100% (306 million) of the country so that 15% (45.7 million) of the country can be required to purchase or have health insurance that does not guarantee health care.