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September 13, 2007

Sweating the Details

Today’s Downsizer-Dispatch…
Last week, the Senate passed 2 bills, amounting to 519 pages of legislation. The House passed 14 bills totaling 261 pages. In addition, the Senate passed 10 non-binding resolutions and the House passed 14. [The bills are listed below, after my signature] These resolutions express Congress’s opinion about something it can’t do anything about. Each House of Congress passes hundreds of these resolutions every year. These resolutions are usually useless and wasteful, because time spent drafting and considering them takes away time that could be spent reading and considering bills that become law.

Indeed, five House bills went to a roll call vote last week, while nine passed by voice vote – meaning you can’t find out how your own Representative voted. Yet somehow the House took the time to take a roll call vote on four non-binding resolutions. Wouldn’t you rather know how your Representative voted on actual bills that will affect your life?

Sometimes, resolutions are almost comical in their irrelevance. For instance, in July Congress passed a resolution congratulating the Detroit Tigers for winning the American League the previous October. Other times, however, resolutions are counter-productive.

For instance, soon the House will likely pass a resolution, H. Res. 590, “supporting the goals and ideals of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.” But according to one analysis, “18 of the 23 statements in the Resolution are one-sided, misleading, exaggerated, defamatory, or simply wrong. Three of them are specifically designed to smear fathers.” Furthermore, the Resolution ignores spousal and child abuse perpetrated by women. Source: RADAR

If this resolution was read carefully, conscientious members of Congress would question its findings. But what incentive do they have to actually read the resolution carefully? Supporting the goals of Domestic Violence Awareness Month sounds like the right thing to do, so why sweat the details?

Likewise, Congress doesn’t have any incentive to sweat the details of bills that actually become law, bills that impact people’s lives directly. Since everyone wants college costs reduced, why would your Representative sit down and read the 39 pages of the “College Cost Reduction and Access Act” before voting for it?  Yet in bills like that, Congress creates bureaucracies, increases the deficit, and infringes on your liberty.

We must move beyond good intentions and nice-sounding bill titles. Congress must be held accountable for the details in the bills they pass. Members of Congress don’t read the bills they pass because they don’t have to. There’s no law forcing them to. That must change. And it will change when the public pressures Congress into passing the Read the Bills Act.

Tell your Representative and Senators you want them to sweat the details. Tell them you want them to spend less time voting on non-binding resolutions and more time reading and considering the bills that affect our lives. Tell them to introduce the Read the Bills Act.

Also, please consider adding your own website or blogroll to the Read the Bills Act Coalition. This increases visibility for the Read the Bills Act and gives you a free link from the DownsizeDC blog. Details for joining are here.

This week we welcome two new members to the Coalition:

Civil Unrest
LexTitan’s Liberty

Please, also, help us to thrive financially. We are still behind where we need to be to keep making progress. We understand that a great deal of money is going into political campaigns now. But the campaign season will end soon, and we hope you agree that still needs to be here, strong and growing when that day comes. That can only happen through your financial support. Please make a generous one-time contribution that helps us make budget this month.

Or, we strongly encourage you to join us with a monthly, credit card pledge of $3, $5, $8, $10, $15, $25, $35, or more. Pledges like these form the base of our support and make is easier for us to plan and expand. You can make your pledge here.

Thank you for being a DC Downsizer.


James Wilson
Assistant to the President

The following are the bills the House and Senate passed last week. The bills were passed by voice vote except where indicated. Roll call votes for the House are found here, and for the Senate here. The descriptions of bills are essentially taken verbatim from the Congressional Record Daily Digest. Page numbers of bills are based on the pdf display of the latest version from the Government Printing Office.


Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2008:  By 92 yeas and 1 nay (Vote No. 316), Senate passed H.R. 2642, making appropriations for military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008. 107 pages

Department Of State And Foreign Operations Appropriations Act:  By 81 yeas and 12 nays (Vote No. 325), Senate passed H.R. 2764, making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008. 412 pages


Minority Serving Institution Digital and Wireless Technology Opportunity Act of 2007:  H.R. 694, amended, to establish a digital and wireless network technology program, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 331 yeas to 59 nays, Roll No. 847; 16 pages

Green Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2007: H.R. 2850, amended, to provide for the implementation of a Green Chemistry Research and Development Program; 14 pages

SBA Trade Programs Act of 2007: H.R. 2992, amended, to amend the Small Business Act to improve trade programs; 14 pages

Microloan Amendments and Modernization Act: H.R. 3020, amended, to amend the Small Business Act to improve the Microloan program, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 385 yeas to 5 nays, Roll No. 848; 15 pages

Native American $1 Coin Act: Concur in Senate amendment to H.R. 2358, to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue coins in commemoration of Native Americans and the important contributions made by Indian tribes and individual Native Americans to the development of the United States and the history of the United States–clearing the measure for the President. 4 pages

South Pacific Economic and Educational Development Act of 2007: H.R. 3062, amended, to authorize appropriations to provide for South Pacific exchanges, provide technical and other assistance to countries in the Pacific region through the United States Agency for International Development, and authorize appropriations to provide Fulbright Scholarships for Pacific Island students; 5 pages

United States-Poland Parliamentary Youth Exchange Program Act of 2007: S. 377, to establish a United States-Poland parliamentary youth exchange program–clearing the measure for the President; 6 pages

Percy Sutton Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 954, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 365 West 125th Street in New York, New York, as the “Percy Sutton Post Office Building”; 1 page

John Herschel Glenn, Jr. Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 3052, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 954 Wheeling Avenue in Cambridge, Ohio, as the “John Herschel Glenn, Jr. Post Office Building”; 1 page

Staff Sergeant David L. Nord Post Office Designation Act: H.R. 3106, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 805 Main Street in Ferdinand, Indiana, as the “Staff Sergeant David L. Nord Post Office”; 1 page

Cal Ripken Way Designation Act: H.R. 3218, to designate a portion of Interstate Route 395 located in Baltimore, Maryland, as “Cal Ripken Way”; 1 page

Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2007:  The House passed H.R. 2786, to reauthorize the programs for housing assistance for Native Americans, by a yea-and-nay vote of 333 yeas to 75 nays, Roll No. 859. 26 pages

College Cost Reduction Act of 2007:  The House agreed to the conference report to accompany H.R. 2669, to provide for reconciliation pursuant to section 601 of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2008, by a yea-and-nay vote of 292 yeas to 97 nays, Roll No. 864.  77 pages (NOTE: The final, smaller-print version was 39 pages, as mentioned in the Dispatch above. The version Congress “worked with” was 77 pages.)

Patent Reform Act of 2007:  The House passed H.R. 1908, to amend title 35, United States Code, to provide for patent reform, by a recorded vote of 220 ayes to 175 noes, Roll No. 863. 72 pages

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