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Monday, September 7, 2009

Congress doesn't read the bills they vote on

Do you think Congress actually reads those bills they pass? No, they do not. The U.S. Congress routinely votes on bills that they have not even read.

It is typical for Congress members to carelessly pass mammoth bills that none of them have read. Sometimes printed copies aren't even available when they vote. Also members of Congress typically do not even write the laws they pass. Most laws are written either by special interest lobbyists or by bureaucrats. And they routinely pass unpopular measures by combining them with popular bills that are completely unrelated.

Most Congressmen are lawyers, and many others are businessmen. They know what “fiduciary responsibility” is. For members of Congress, fiduciary responsibility means reading each word of every bill before they vote.

But Congress has not met this duty for a long time. Instead . . .
  • Often no one knows what these bills contain, or what they really do, or what they will really cost.
  • Additions and deletions are made at the last minute, in secrecy.
  • They combine unpopular proposals with popular measures that few in Congress want to oppose. (This practice is called “log-rolling.”)
  • And votes are held with little debate or public notice.
Once these bills are passed, and one of these unpopular proposals comes to light, they pretend to be shocked. “How did that get in there?” they ask. There's a basic principle at stake here. America was founded on the slogan, “No taxation without representation.” A similar slogan applies to this situation: “No LEGISLATION without representation.” We hold this truth to be self-evident, that those in Congress who vote on legislation they have not read, have not represented their constituents. They have misrepresented them.

Many American citizens are unaware of this Congressional behavior. Congress shirks its responsibilities in many ways: Congress does't read them, and also Congress doesn't even write the laws they pass either. Most laws are written either by special interest lobbyists or by bureaucrats. Politicians don’t have to sweat the details of the laws they pass. Most laws today contain only general directives. The regulatory details are left to unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats.

Politicians don’t have to read the bills they pass. Congress passes thousands of pages of legislation without knowing what it contains or does. Often this legislation is not even printed before a vote is held, and new items are sometimes added to bills after they have been passed.

Politicians don’t have to deliberate, or debate the laws they create. Watch CSPAN. Whenever Congress holds a so called debate on a bill there is one person talking, a few people waiting to talk, and the rest of the room is empty. What “debate” means in Congress is that a handful of politicians are playing to the camera while the rest are out talking to lobbyists.

Politicians don’t have to cast individual votes on individual laws. Congressional leaders routinely pass unpopular measures by combining them with popular bills that are completely unrelated. This gives politicians an excuse for passing bad bills. They claim they had to do it because the bad measure was part of a good bill they couldn’t possibly oppose.

Politicians rarely have to correct their mistakes. Some laws have sunset provisions, and come up for periodic reconsideration. But Congress routinely fails to figure out if a law or program has actually worked. They just renew it and, of course, increase the funding.

If politicians had to write the laws, sweat the details, read the bills, deliberate and debate, cast individual votes on individual proposals, and routinely revisit past legislation in the same methodical way, it would be a lot harder to make the federal government grow and grow and grow . . . But they don’t, so it isn’t.

Congress has repeatedly committed “legislation without representation,” and due to that, there is an organization that is attempting to correct this with strong measures to prohibit these Congressional misrepresentations: Downsize DC at DownsizeDC.org.

Downsize DC has created the Read the Bills Act (RTBA). RTBA requires that . . .
  • Each bill, and every amendment, must be read in its entirety before a quorum in both the House and Senate.
  • Every member of the House and Senate must sign a sworn affidavit, under penalty of perjury, that he or she has attentively either personally read, or heard read, the complete bill to be voted on.
  • Every old law coming up for renewal under the sunset provisions must also be read according to the same rules that apply to new bills.
  • Every bill to be voted on must be published on the Internet at least 7 days before a vote, and Congress must give public notice of the date when a vote will be held on that bill.
  • Passage of a bill that does not abide by these provisions will render the measure null and void, and establish grounds for the law to be challenged in court.
  • Congress cannot waive these requirements.

Read the Bills Act

Downsize DC is a non-partisan organization which aims to limit the size of government in the United States through awareness and petitioning government.