September 14, 2009
Clearing up a misconeption
By James Wilson

Quote of the Day:  "There are some bills we don't need to read, we already know how we're going to vote." - Rep. Henry Brown

Does agree or disagree with this statement? The answer may surprise you . . .

Subject: Clearing up a misconception about the Read the Bills Act

The partisans on both sides are using "reading the bill" as a sign of moral superiority. They're jabbing each other over who's read the healthcare bill more carefully, as the Joe Wilson controversy indicates.

As originators of the Read the Bills meme, we consider this a sign of progress. It means that public pressure in support of our idea is both working and growing. Now, if only the Democrats and Republicans in Congress would stop using our idea to grandstand, and would instead pass's Read the Bills Act (RTBA)!

But the debate over which side has read the healthcare bill more carefully raises a question: should members of Congress who intend to vote AGAINST a bill still be required to read every word of it?

We think it would be helpful for them to do so, especially when it comes to debating why the bill should be defeated, but we don't think those who intend to vote NO on a bill should be required to read it.

No one needs to justify opposing a bill that will invade your life, your liberty, or your property. Opponents don't have to prove they know every clause and subsection.

One bad clause may be sufficient to put down the bill and go vote against it.

The onus is always on those who support a bill to justify it.

This gives us an opportunity to clear up a common misconception among members of Congress . . .

Several of them think that's RTBA would require all members to read every word of every bill that comes to a vote. It doesn't. It only requires those who vote in favor of a bill to have signed an affadavit affirming they have read the bill, or heard it read.

Those who oppose a bill because they think its key points are bad, aren't asked to sweat the details.

The RTBA's purpose is to force a bill's supporters to have a basic knowledge of what it is they're passing. This basic knowledge can only come from reading the bill. This simple requirement would . . .

* Prevent politicians from blithely supporting bills just because they sound like they have good intentions
* Require politicians to take responsibility for their vote -- they could no longer hide behind the excuse that they "didn't know that was in the bill"
* Make politicians more concerned to make sure that a nice-sounding bill won't have unintended consequences

We therefore agree with the Quote of the Day above -- at least in one sense. If Representative Brown already knows he's going to oppose a bill, the RTBA won't require him to read it. But he, and all members of Congress, must read every bill they intend to support.

Use our Educate the Powerful System to tell your Congressional employees to pass's Read the Bills Act.

Use your personal comments to tell them that, contrary to their possible misconception, the RTBA only requires them to read bills they support, not bills they oppose. Also remind them that if they pass the healthcare bill without reading it first, they will pay a steep political price. 

You can send your letter to Congress here.

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James Wilson
Assistant to the President


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