“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.”
--Alexander Hamilton and James Madison (Federalist No. 62, 1788)
Each week we receive an email newsletter, the RSC Update, from a conservative congressional caucus called the House Republican Study Committee. It includes a legislative bulletin, which I use to cross-check with the Congressional Record to make sure I give an accurate report on the bills the House passed the previous week. We appreciate this resource, and we are giving credit where credit is due. This does not, however mean we support everything the Republican Study Committee stands for, or endorse the Republican Party. And we aren't suggesting that the Republicans ran Congress better when they were in charge. Actually, it doesn't seem to make any difference. No matter who's in charge, Congress passes bills unread, frequently with overwhelming bi-partisan support.
The latest (Sept 24) RSC Update is interesting. It provided us with today's Quote of the Day that led off this message. It also includes this statement about H.R. 3580, the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007 introduced on Wednesday, September 19: "Final bill text released twenty minutes before floor consideration." That's bad. What makes it worse is, this bill is 422 pages long. Is it just me, or does 20 minutes seem like not quite enough time to read 422 pages?
Even worse than that, the bill was passed on a "suspend the rules and pass" motion - that is, they voted on the measure without debate. Such motions can only pass with two-thirds of the vote, but that was no problem, as this one passed with 405 in favor and only 7 opposed. The Senate passed the bill the next day by unanimous consent.
Admittedly, the bill wasn't entirely new. Earlier in the year, the Senate passed an apparently similar bill, the 500-page S. 1082, and the House had passed the similar, 312-page H.R. 2900. The subject, then, wasn't completely out-of-the-blue. But those two bills were different from each other by 188 pages. H.R. 3580 appears to split the difference, but what has been added from the previous bills? What has been subtracted? Has anything been secretly inserted? Aside from the legislative staffers who put it together, does anyone know? Were they "helped" by Administration bureaucrats? By lobbyists?
A bill is introduced and passed by one chamber one day, and passes the other chamber the next day. Some may call that efficiency, but we say it is inexcusable. If our representatives in Congress don't know the contents of the legislation they pass, then Hamilton and Madison were right. True representatives of the people would insist that bills would be short enough and simple enough for average people to read and understand. That's why members of Congress should make sure they read and understand the bills themselves. And that is why DownsizeDC.org is proposing the Read the Bills Act.
Through resistance numbing, relentless pressure by an ever-growing army of supporters, Congress will have no choice but to pass the Read the Bills Act. And we are asking you to add to that pressure today. Tell your Representative and Senators you know they didn't read H.R. 3580. Tell them it is their responsibility to read and understand the bills. Tell them to introduce and pass the Read the Bills Act.
You can also promote the RTBA by adding your blog or website to the Read the Bills Act Coalition. Details are found here.
This week, we welcome one new member to the Coalition:
Blog of Bile
In addition to the 422-page H.R. 3580 which both chambers passed, the Senate passed four other bills totaling 122 pages, and the House passed eight other bills totaling 475 pages. Information on these bills is found below my signature.
Thank you for being a DC Downsizer.
Assistant to the President
The following are the bills the House and Senate passed last week. The bills were passed by voice vote except where indicated. Roll call votes for the House are found here, and for the Senate here. The descriptions of bills are essentially taken verbatim from the Congressional Record Daily Digest. Page numbers of bills are based on the pdf display of the latest version from the Government Printing Office.SENATE District Of Columbia College Access Act: By a unanimous vote of 96 yeas (Vote No. 338), Senate passed H.R. 1124, to extend the District of Columbia College Access Act of 1999 - 4 pages Mental Health Parity Act: Senate passed S. 558, to provide parity between health insurance coverage of mental health benefits and benefits for medical and surgical services 22 pages Peace Corps: Senate passed H.R. 3528, to provide authority to the Peace Corps to provide separation pay for host country resident personal services contractors of the Peace Corps, clearing the measure for the President. 1 page Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act: Senate passed H.R. 3580, to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to revise and extend the user-fee programs for prescription drugs and for medical devices, to enhance the postmarket authorities of the Food and Drug Administration with respect to the safety of drugs, clearing the measure for the President. 422 pages Gang Abatement and Prevention Act: Senate passed S. 456, to increase and enhance law enforcement resources committed to investigation and prosecution of violent gangs, to deter and punish violent gang crime, to protect law-abiding citizens and communities from violent criminals, to revise and enhance criminal penalties for violent crimes, to expand and improve gang prevention programs 95 pages HOUSE Establishing a Science and Technology Scholarship Program to award scholarships to recruit and prepare students for careers in the National Weather Service and in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine research, atmospheric research, and satellite programs: H.R. 1657, to establish a Science and Technology Scholarship Program to award scholarships to recruit and prepare students for careers in the National Weather Service and in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine research, atmospheric research, and satellite programs, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 360 yeas to 16 nays, Roll No. 868; 9 pages Extending for two months the authorities of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation: H.R. 3527, to extend for two months the authorities of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 347 yeas to 30 nays, Roll No. 869 4 pages Providing authority to the Peace Corps to provide separation pay for host country resident personal services contractors of the Peace Corps: H.R. 3528, to provide authority to the Peace Corps to provide separation pay for host country resident personal services contractors of the Peace Corps 1 page Awarding a Congressional Gold Medal to Michael Ellis DeBakey, M.D.: H.R. 1154, to award a Congressional Gold Medal to Michael Ellis DeBakey, M.D. 8 pages Terrorism Risk Insurance Revision and Extension Act of 2007: The House passed H.R. 2761, to extend the Terrorism Insurance Program of the Department of the Treasury, by a yea-and-nay vote of 312 yeas to 110 nays, Roll No. 884. 86 pages Amending the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to revise and extend the user-fee programs for prescription drugs and for medical devices and enhancing the postmarket authorities of the Food and Drug Administration with respect to the safety of drugs: H.R. 3580, to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to revise and extend the user-fee programs for prescription drugs and for medical devices and to enhance the postmarket authorities of the Food and Drug Administration with respect to the safety of drugs, by a \2/3\ yea-and-nay vote of 405 yeas to 7 nays, Roll No. 885. 422 pages FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007: The House passed H.R. 2881, to amend title 49, United States Code, to authorize appropriations for the Federal Aviation Administration for fiscal years 2008 through 2011, to improve aviation safety and capacity, and to provide stable funding for the national aviation system, by a recorded vote of 267 ayes to 151 noes, Roll No. 890. 270 pages Expanding American Homeownership Act of 2007: The House passed H.R. 1852, to modernize and update the National Housing Act and enable the Federal Housing Administration to use risk-based pricing to more effectively reach underserved borrowers, by a recorded vote of 348 ayes to 72 noes, Roll No. 876. 77 pages Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2007: H.R. 3096, amended, to promote freedom and democracy in Vietnam, by a \2/3\ yea-and-nay vote of 414 yeas to 3 nays, Roll No. 877. 20 pages