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A Proposal for Congress to Read Every Bill

Thursday, 19 Feb 2009 04:16 PM

By Ralph Hostetter

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It's an open secret that members of the U.S. Congress, for a long time, have not read the very legislation on which they vote.

Despite that many congressmen are lawyers and were taught the definition of "fiduciary responsibility" in law school —meaning the importance of reading the entire document, word for word — they choose to ignore this all important responsibility.

An excellent case in point is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, H.R. 1, known as the "stimulus package."

The stimulus bill was reported to add up to 1,000-plus pages, give or take 100. The bill, H.R. 1, that President Obama signed in Denver on Feb. 17 calls for expenditures that may exceed $1 trillion ($1,000,000,000,000).

The trillion-dollar figure fits neatly into the politically liberal frame of mind. Someone once said the problem in American politics is that liberals can't count and conservatives can't talk.

This should not come as a surprise to the U.S. Congress, simply because they haven't read it.

In an effort to correct the problem of Congress not reading the bills, a lobbyist organization has been formed, DownsizeDC.org, to enlist public support for the purpose of bringing pressure on Congress to enact legislation that would require congressmen to read their own bills before they vote on them.

This may seem a futile effort, since they don't read their own bills to start with. However, that may prove an advantage at this stage.

We know the Congress may follow its regular policy of not reading the bills, and hopefully this one would get through.

The "Read the Bills Act" (RTBA), if it sees the light of day, would require, according to DownsizeDC,org: "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."

The effects of these provisions will be profound, DownsizeDC predicts.

“Congress will have to slow down. This means the pace of government growth will also slow.

“Bills will shrink, be less complicated, and contain fewer subjects, so that Congress will be able to endure hearing them read.

“Fewer bad proposals will be passed due to 'log-rolling.'

“No more secret clauses will be inserted into bills at the last moment.

“Government should shrink as old laws reach their sunset date, and have to be read for the first time before they can be renewed.”

DownsizeDC.org’s plan for passing this legislation is simple, but powerful:

“We have submitted a copy of RTBA to every member of Congress.

“We are asking every member of the House and Senate to sponsor this legislation and work for its passage.

“We are mounting a campaign to recruit thousands, and perhaps millions of Americans to lobby Congress to support RTBA.

“We are promoting this campaign with a variety of tactics, from Internet networking, to media interviews, to whatever it takes.

“We will run targeted radio ads, letting citizens know that their Congressman is failing to support this badly needed reform.

“The need for this reform is so self-evident that nearly every person in America should support it . . . We see no reason why we should not be able to overwhelm Congress with calls to pass this legislation.

“We dare Congress not to pass it. The more they resist, the larger and stronger we will grow.

“We dare anyone to challenge it in court. The more the lobbyists attempt to defeat this reform, the larger and stronger we will grow.

“We dare the Courts to declare it un-Constitutional. If they do, we will grow larger and stronger as a result — probably big enough to begin a campaign to amend the Constitution to forbid ‘legislation without representation.’

“There is simply no reason that any normal, tax-paying American should oppose RTBA. And the more the ‘powers that be’ resist these reforms, the larger and stronger we will grow.

“We win either way. And thus, we believe, we will win in the end.”

The trick will be in getting someone in Congress to introduce the bill in the first place. According to DownsizeDC.org President Jim Babka, congressional offices have been flooded with 150,000 requests from the public for sponsorship for the bill.

E. Ralph Hostetter, a prominent businessman and agricultural publisher, also is a national and local award-winning columnist. He welcomes comments by e-mail sent to eralphhostetter@yahoo.com.

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