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Congress: They Know Not What They Do By: E. Ralph Hostetter
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, February 20, 2009

And how could they know what they do? It's an open secret that Members of Congress generally do not read the legislation upon which they vote.  Regardless of the fact that many Congressmen are lawyers and were taught in law school the definition of "fiduciary responsibility"—which means reading the entire document, from beginning to end—they choose to ignore this all important responsibility.

An excellent case in point is H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, known as the "Stimulus Package Act." The number of pages in the Stimulus Package is about 1,063. The Act, which President Barack H. Obama signed in Denver on February 17, calls for expenditures which may exceed $1 trillion ($1,000,000,000,000). This should not come as a surprise to Congress, simply because Members of Congress haven't read it.

In an effort to correct the problem of Senators and Representatives not reading legislation, an organization known as DownsizeDC.org has been formed to enlist public support to pressure Congress to enact legislation that would require Members of Congress to read their own bills before they vote on them.

This may seem a futile effort. However, such ignorance may prove an advantage at this stage. If Congress were to follow its regular policy of not reading the bills, hopefully this one would get through.

According to DownsizeDC.org, the "Read the Bills Act" (RTBA), were it to see the light of day, would require that:

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 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.

The effects of these provisions would be profound, DownsizeDC predicts.

Congress would have to slow down. This means the pace of government growth also would slow.

Bills would shrink, be less complicated, and contain fewer subjects, so that Congress would be able to read them.

No more secret clauses would be inserted into bills at the last moment.

Government would shrink as old laws reach their sunset date, and would have to be read before they could be renewed.

The initial trick will be in finding a Senator or Representative to introduce the bill. Congressional offices have been flooded with requests from the public for sponsorship for the bill but as yet it has no sponsor.  Whether it finds one, the goal is still a laudable and reasonable one.

E. Ralph Hostetter, a prominent businessman and publisher, is an award-winning columnist and Vice Chairman of the Free Congress Foundation Board of Directors.

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