Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Is it too much to ask?

The Washington Post today published an editorial called "Read This!" about whether lawmakers could, or even should, read every word in every piece of legislation upon which they vote. The same issue applies to state legislatures and county councils, too. The issue was originally raised in relation to the massive healthcare reform bill, when it became clear that many in Congress had not read the bill entirely.

That prompted the "Read to Vote" campaign. The organization of the same name is urging the members of the U.S. Senate and House to sign a pledge that they will read every word of a bill before voting on it. There is also a pledge for U.S. citizens to sign, urging their representatives to read every bill, and that they, as citizens, will try to do so too. Right.

The Washington Post editorial, touches on the obvious; as nice as it sounds, if lawmakers really did read every word of every bill up for vote, work on Capitol Hill would grind to an exasperating pace, if not a halt. It does concede, though, that the Read to Vote campaign makes some good points about the need to take the time to, if not read every word, at least fully understand bills up for vote.

"Still, the ReadtoVote campaign hits on some reasonable sources of discomfort with the way Congress operates. Some on the left are furious about politicians distorting bills' contents -- accusations of death panels in the health-care bill, for example. Unfortunately, distortion will probably happen regardless of how many pages lawmakers read.

Another is that leaders rush huge bills to a vote before lawmakers can review them. It's a problem about which the minority party inevitably complains. But in the current climate, it also unnecessarily feeds a divisive narrative on the right about how President Obama and his allies in Congress are forcing radical policy on an unwitting public. Narrative or no, it's reasonable to expect adequate time to consider bills' final language. "


Biz Bitch said...

Georgette, thank you for bringing this important subject to our attention. I have personally signed the "Read to Vote" pledge and I hope everyone will do so.

Reading every word and carefully analyizing the ramifications of each bill that is passed is not an "inconvenience" in the job of each legislator, IT IS THE JOB!!!

Kay Lorraine

Doug said...

Actually, Kay, all that reading of bills was MY JOB for several years. I wrote the bill digest for the Hawaii House.

I actually enjoyed it and took pride in my work, but it's not a simple task nor is it something that can be done quickly. I could do it for an entire workday pretty much uninterupted. Legislators are expected to attend hearings and floor session, so they'd never read all the material unless they worked well into the night. Immediately after decking deadlines even the digest staff could not keep up and we recruited assistance from LRB and the MajSO to work OT in order to finalize the digest in time for caucus meetings.

So, "reading the bill" is a noble sentiment, but...

Biz Bitch said...

Howzit Doug! Good for you, but you are an exceptional guy. I doubt that all legislative staff are as conscientious as you.

I stand by my original statement. I still think it is the legislators’ job to know EXACTLY what they are voting for.

Hey, maybe they should all hire you.

Aloha, Kay

Doug said...

If you insist on it being that way, Kay, then don't expect (as) much legislation from a 60-day session. I don't know you, but I reckon you're on the outside looking into the Legislature fishbowl, so perhaps you really don't know how much time and effort would be involved.

Furthermore, a well-written digest can give a legislator enough information to form an opinion on a bill. To withstand legal scrutiny and to provide maximum clarity, very many bills consist of pages and pages of existing law within which only a few phrases or words are inserted, deleted, or amended. Frankly, it's a waste of time for a busy politician to read EVERY WORD of that when the effect can be summarized in a paragraph or sentence.

Now, a legislator who does not even read the DIGEST? He or she should be soundly scorned! haha

Biz Bitch said...

Indeed! Scorn them, scorn them I say!

Lovely to connect with you again.