It is no surprise to those involved in politics and those watching Congressional proceedings on C-SPAN that those in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate routinely do not read the bills in which they vote for or against. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi famously said, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” during consideration of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. During regular votes in Congress, our representatives routinely utter the words, “Mr. President, I ask that we do away with the reading of the bill…” This request is always granted by default.
While it is unclear how many Americans are demanding Congress to actually physically read the bills for which they are voting, it seems a sensible procedure rather than relying on staff and lobbyist to tell you what is in a legislative bill that will change the lives of the citizenry.
Since 2006, the DownsizeDc organization has introduced the Read the Bills Act, and it has recently met up with a resurgence of interest from the public. Their bill (RTBA S.3879) would require each member of Congress voting “Yes” on a bill to sign an affidavit that they have read every word of the bill. This is a similar requirement of CEOs of SEC regulated companies as it relates to their financials.
Also, the bill requires that it must post the bill online seven days before a vote to enable the public time to review and provide public comments on the bill. A common favorite of elected officials is adding on unrelated amendments to bills, and the RTBA would require the full text of those amendments included in the bill so it can be reviewed and compared with the original bill.
Opponents of the bill have complained that it would slow down the process of legislation, and perhaps that is the point from DownsizeDC. If enacted, the bill would provide Americans more information and more time to rise for or against certain legislation and would provide elected officials an incentive to create shorter bills.
Downsize has recently taken on a new tactic to get this legislation passed and it requires participation from the public. They are setting up fresh groups called “Agenda Setters” which will have 300 people in each House district visit their local Congressional office in groups of 3, 5 or 6. The visit’s purpose would be to have their U.S. House Rep sponsor or support RTBA.