“Read the Bills Act” (RTBA) Should Be Made Law

Rand Paul Portrait

We were recently told that several bills were passed in Congress that were hundreds of pages long…and were never even read by our representatives. In fact, many Congressmen had no qualms about revealing that they didn’t even bother to try to read the bills. One recent bill had a 300 page addendum added in the middle of the night before Congress was to vote on it. How many people do you think read those 300 pages?

I believe that reading a bill that they are voting on is absolutely a part of the job description of a US Congressman. The fact that many do not is a slap in the fact of democracy and a slap in the face of each and every person that depends on them to do what is best for this country. If you do not read a bill, how can you know what you’re voting on? It is shameful and arrogant that our representatives do not take the time to find out what is in the laws they pass.

Recently, when he was asked if the Congressmen would be actually reading the health care bill before they voted on it, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer actually said this:

If every member pledged to not vote for it if they hadn’t read it in its entirety, I think we would have very few votes,” Hoyer told CNSNews.com at his regular weekly news conference.

Hoyer was responding to a question from CNSNews.com on whether he supported a pledge that asks members of the Congress to read the entire bill before voting on it and also make the full text of the bill available to the public for 72 hours before a vote.

In fact, Hoyer found the idea of the pledge humorous, laughing as he responded to the question. “I’m laughing because a) I don’t know how long this bill is going to be, but it’s going to be a very long bill,” he said.

As Duane Lester over at the All American Blogger said: “I think Thomas Jefferson would probably punch this boob right in his smug face.” I agree.

It is for this reason that I fully support the Read The Bills Act (RTBA) that was created by Downsize DC. As explained on their website, this bill would accomplish the following:

  • 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.

I don’t know how anyone could not support this bill. The need for it is so completely self-evident. It’s sad that we would have to have a law that forces Congress to do their job, but I believe it is absolutely necessary in today’s political climate.

Downsize DC says that the effects of this bill will be profound:

  • 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.

I ask that you join me in support of this bill. Go to the Downsize DC website and click on the links to send a message to your representatives. Let them know that you support this bill and that you demand Congress take their jobs seriously. We deserve better than what we’re getting. If Congress won’t give it to us then we need to force them to do so.

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