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August 22, 2007

We Get Responses

Today’s Downsizer-Dispatch . . .

Is our campaign for the Read the Bills Act getting results? We are certainly encouraged that Congress has taken some steps in our direction. Sen. Dianne Feinstein writes to a Downsizer:

“Like you, I believe that it is important that Senators and Representatives have a full understanding of bills before they come to a vote. You may be interested to know that a provision was included in the ‘Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007’ (S. 1) that requires any bill containing earmarks to be available on the internet for at least 48 hours before it can be considered by the Senate. This bill also includes a provision requiring that conference reports be available on the internet for at least 48 hours for Members to review before they may be considered. I am an original cosponsor of S. 1, which passed the Senate on January 18, 2007 by a vote of 96-2, and support these provisions.”

Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama is also feeling the winds of change, saying that as President “he would post all non-emergency bills online for five days before he signed them into law, allowing Americans a chance to weigh in on the legislation.” Source: Yahoo 

Fine idea, Senator! It looks like you borrowed our idea of posting bills for seven days before Congress votes on them. And that raises the question: Senator Obama, why won’t you introduce the Read the Bills Act?

Other members of Congress are definitely not fans of the RTBA at all. They’ve tried to ignore us, but thanks to our persistence have recently begun responding to our petitions. Sen. Kay Baily Hutchison writes a Downsizer,
“The legislative process in the Senate is complex and making additional requirements to read lengthy bills aloud on the Senate floor, or know the precise voting schedules in advance, could significantly hinder its ability to function practically or efficiently.”

And Rep. Joe Sestak writes:

“Though the intentions of making sure every member of Congress has read, or heard read, each bill voted into law indeed has merit, it would take away precious time that members have to introduce and process legislation. This means that many bills that could greatly benefit our country would be placed on hold due to the time constraints that the Read the Bills Act would implement.”

What Rep. Sestak doesn’t mention is that the RTBA would also place “on hold” many bad bills that could greatly harm our country. We’ve seen the social, economic, and environmental devastation Big Government has inflicted. Do we really want Congress to be “efficient” in increasing the size of government by passing more and more bills?

But Sen. Hutchison and Rep. Sestak overlook a more practical point: by not reading and understanding bills in their entirety, they may end up with the opposite of what they intend. Consider a situation in Arkansas. The legislature tried to increase the marriage age to 18 with an exception for younger pregnant girls if they have parental consent. But the bill read “not pregnant” instead, allowing anyone under 18 – even infants – to get married with parental consent. A special session of the Arkansas Legislature may be called to fix the bill. Source: Yahoo

Is this efficiency?

If members of Congress don’t read the bills they vote for, not only can “accidental” mistakes like this happen, but some unwanted changes could be secretly inserted.

So we urge you to tell your representatives you don’t want this Arkansas fiasco repeated at the federal level. Tell them you don’t want enormous bills prone to sabotage or unwanted insertions. Tell them to introduce and pass the Read the Bills Act. You can send your message here.

We also invite you to join the Read the Bills Act Coalition. Post an ad on your website or blog, and we will post a link back at the blog. Details are found here.

Thank you for being a DC Downsizer

James Wilson
Assistant to the President

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