gRegorLove little g big R

Read the Bills

Most people, despite their level of interest or knowledge of American politics, are aware that our government spends a ridiculous amount of money – over 2 trillion dollars.

Thats $2,000,000,000,000.

Undoubtedly a lot of this excessive spending comes from special interest projects being tacked onto bills passed by Congress (aka pork barrelling). Not only do these special interest projects lie outside the scope of the federal government, they're often attached to “popular” bills they have nothing to do with. The line of thought goes that since they're attached to “popular” bills, most representatives will not vote against it (since they are invertebrates).

However, I'm not so sure this is truly the case. It's becoming more apparent that the problem actually lies with the representatives not even reading what they're voting on. Huge bills get passed before there is even time to read them in their entirety. The so-called Patriot Act, for example, was introduced in the House October 23rd, 2001 and passed October 24th. The Senate passed the bill October 25th and it was signed into law October 26th. The bill was 131 pages long. Do you think that every member of Congress read it in the span of a day or two – and overwhelmingly approved of everything in it so as to pass it so quickly? (It passed 357 – 66 in the House, 98 - 1 in the Senate). I'm a bit skeptical.

There is a draft legislation that the organization Downsize DC is spreading the word about and trying to get a congressional sponsor for. The bill is pretty simple: each representative must sign a sworn affidavit that he has attentively either read or heard read the entire bill before voting on it. Additionally it would require the full text of the bill to be posted on the Internet at least 7 days before a vote, and public notice of the date when the vote will be held. It's called the Read the Bills Act (RTBA).

Honestly I think it's genius in its simplicity and its function. There is not any reason I can think of to oppose this bill, and any representatives who do will be essentially admitting they don't read the bills, thus strengthening the case for the RTBA. The benefits will be great. Bills will become more manageable and special interest items won't be secretly inserted at the last minute; government spending and largesse will decrease.

I'd encourage you to read more about RTBA at the above link; you can even register on their web site and use their electronic lobbying system to easily send a message to your representatives urging them to pass it.

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>:| >:|
HEY, I have work too you know! However, it's artrelated.

jen jen
hey, gregor, it's jen, josh's sister.... just wanted to say hey.
your site is a tribute to your webtastic site skills. i like it. :)

Mike C Mike C
I agree.

linz linz
I'm not arguing your REAL point, but if it was my job to do it, I could read a 131-page thingy and re-read all the separate points and decide on them and weigh my opinion on them, in a matter of a few hours.

And it IS their job to do that.

But as I said, I'm not arguing your point here, just a unraveling little bit of your logic I guess.

Hmm. Yeah, except have you ever read legislation? It's not even in English. :)

Well, the legalese can be excessive; plus there's a lot of things like “Bill XYZ.23 Paragraph 2 a) is heretofore amended to read...”, so you'd have to read those other bills in order to get the full context, too. It can be a pretty tangled web by the time it's done.

The Patriot Act is actually a relatively small example (in terms of # of pages). It's not uncommon for bills to be hundreds of pages long, and for large portions of them to be tacked on right before the vote.

This is an older post, so the public comment form is now closed. You can still use the form above to send me the link of your reply or sign in with your email to leave a comment. You can always send me a message, too.


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