Read the bill” reform has gained the support of an overwhelming majority of Americans, widely respected government watchdogs, and even some rank-and-file Democrats. Yet, Democratic leaders continue to protect the status quo, refusing to allow a vote on a resolution requiring a 72-hour review period for all legislation. Only 36 more signatures on a discharge petition filed by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) are needed to force an up-or-down vote on “read the bill” reform. The various rationales Democrats have provided to justify their opposition to common-sense transparency and accountability reveal just how out-of-touch this majority has become.
THREE REASONS DEMOCRATS OPPOSE “READ THE BILL” REFORM:
1. ‘We don’t do things that way.’ Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), addressing attempts by Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee to ensure lawmakers and the public have 72 hours to review health care legislation: “We have never, ever, ever, ever done that in this committee.” (Politico, 9/24/09)
2. ‘Saying we can’t change the bill at the last minute means we can’t, you know, actually change the bill at the last minute.’ “What if only one short word or amendment is made?” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) asked last week. “It’s one thing initially for a bill to have a long time, but if you come out of a conference and they don’t change anything then, you don’t need 72 hours.” (The Hill, 10/2/09)
3. ‘Nobody actually reads the bills.’ This rates as the most common reason. For instance, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) said last month during a Senate Finance Committee hearing, “I mean, let’s be honest about it. The legislative language, everybody knows, is relatively arcane, legalistic, and most people don’t read the legislative language.” Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) recently added: “I don’t expect to actually read the legislative language because reading the legislative language is among the more confusing things I’ve ever read in my life. … It’s just anyone who says that they can do that and actually get much out of it is trying to pull the wool over our eyes.” (Politico, 9/23/09; New York Post, 10/4/09)
THREE REASONS AMERICANS SUPPORT “READ THE BILL” REFORM:
1. “Stimulus bill a sorry spectacle. What a joke. Your Congress has voted to spend almost $790 billion of your money on a stimulus package that not a single member of either chamber has read. The 1,073-page document wasn’t posted on the government’s website until after 10 p.m. the day before the vote to pass it was taken.” (Jack Cafferty, CNN.com, 2/17/09)
2. “Energy bill a travesty containing who knows what. The cap-and-trade bill passed the House of Representatives shrouded in a fog of willful ignorance and calculated irrationality. No one could be sure what he was voting for -- not after a 300-page amendment added at 3:09 a.m. the day of its passage. The bill is so complex and jerry-built that even its supporters can’t know how, or if, it will work. And it’s impossible for someone to know whether the motivating crisis, impending planetary doom, will ever materialize.” (Rich Lowry, Salt Lake Tribune, 6/30/09)
3. Organizational Chart of the House Democrats’ Health Plan, which depicts the bureaucratic nightmare that is the House Democrats’ costly government-run health care proposal. The chart was produced by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) and the Republican staff of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC).