“What? You mean they don’t?”
Nope. Sorry to break it to you, but most members of Congress do not read a bill before passing it! I recently received a response from my Congressman, Patrick McHenry, complaining about a part of a bill that he didn’t know about when he voted for it. I just read Sue Myrick in today’s Charlotte Observer complaining about the same thing. These mammoth bills are amended and then rushed to a vote, without the representatives aware of what is in them, and even without enough time for a proper public debate. You can read about a good example of that here.
DownsizeDC.org has drafted the Read The Bills Act, which, if passed, will fix all of this. It 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.
Now, in case you’re thinking, “What if they just say, ‘Move to suspend the rules’ like we see them do on C-SPAN all the time?” Because this wouldn’t just be the rules; this would be the law It would be in the US Code. Congress can’t suspend it; they must abide by it, and if they don’t, the law they pass would be null and void.
If you think this is a great idea (and if you think it’s not, comment below–I really want to talk to you!), then you can urge your Congresscritter to support the Read The Bills Act by using DownsizeDC’s lobbying interface. It actually works–they read and respond to it! I’ve gotten responses from McHenry and both of my Senators on various issues using this interface.