Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Read the Whole Thing

Downsize D.C. has a very good idea. They are trying to get Congress to actually read the bills they pass. A truly novel idea no doubt.

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 . . .

* They carelessly pass mammoth bills that none of them have read. Sometimes printed copies aren't even available when they vote!

* 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.

* Oh, and 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 say.
Yep. It is all a big mystery how bad laws get passed and government spending is out of control. As usual Congress will be the last to figure it out.

Downsize D.C. has figured out an answer:
Read the Bills Act of 2005 (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.
Here is the text of the whole bill.

There is some nice parliamentary proceedure by Thomas Jefferson written into the bill:
(d) According to Section I of Thomas Jefferson's 1812 Manual of Parliamentary Practice for the Use of the Senate of the United States (“Jefferson's Manual”), “nothing tended more to throw power into the hands of administration and those who acted with the majority ... than a neglect of, or departure from, the rules of proceeding [which] operated as a check and control of the actions of the majority [and] a shelter and protection to the minority.”

(e) According to Sections XXII and XL of Jefferson's Manual, it was the rule of the Senate that every bill receive three readings, two full readings by the Clerk of the Senate, and a third reading of the title of the bill only in that “every member of the Senate had a printed copy [of said bill] in his hand.”

(f) According to Sections XXIV, XXV, and XL of Jefferson's Manual, it was the rule of the House of Representatives, following the parliamentary procedure of the English House of Commons, that every bill received two full readings by the Clerk of the House, and a reading of the whole contents of the bill verbatim by the Speaker of the House before the House voted on each bill.
If you would like to pass this on to the President or Congress here are some links:

House of Representatives

The Senate

The President


Unknown said...

You know this is an excellent suggestion. A couple of years ago Congress passed the disastrous Sarbanes-Oxley which, among other things, required CEO's actually to take responsibility for their organizations (not a bad idea in and of itself). Is it too much to ask that Congress do the same?

Anonymous said...

People foolishly think that the Congressman's job is to make laws.

Nope, his job is to win elections. He has a staff of people working for him who do the boring gruntwork of making laws.