We at DownsizeDC.org like to complain when Congress is in session. And then we complain when Congress is not in session. And it's not just us. The American people are very unhappy with Congress's performance. Congress must be very frustrated with the constant complaining.
But the complaints are valid. The bills Congress passes make government too big and too expensive. As government grows, the social sphere of private initiative and personal liberty shrinks. To grow government is to stifle human progress. So yes, we complain when Congress is in session. We are disgusted with stupid and unnecessary laws. We are angered that Congress wastes our tax dollars on counter-productive programs and pork-barrel projects.
Yet we also complain when Congress takes time off, as the Senate did last week. One would think the longer Congress is on vacation, the fewer bills they will pass. But that's not the case. The bills will still be passed, but they won't be given the attention they are due. Instead of carefully considering bills that affect our lives, liberty, and property, Congress often lets them sail through unread, undebated, and often "without objection." This isn't serving the people, this is a mockery of representative democracy.
But there is a way Congress can please us, and that is to pass the Read the Bills Act.
The Read the Bills Act requires each bill to be read in its entirety before a quorum in each chamber of Congress. It also requires members of Congress who vote for a bill to affirm they have read it (or heard it read) and understand it. Each bill will also be posted on the Internet for seven days before it comes to a final vote, giving time for the people to read it themselves and give Congress their feedback. We believe that if bills are exposed to the light of day, fewer bad bills will be passed.
Furthermore, the time it takes to publicly read the bills will force Congress to prioritize. Only the most urgent and necessary bills will be passed. The pace of government growth will slow down. The Read the Bills Act, then, would be a victory for human progress and liberty.
At the same time, Congress will have to pay more attention to the bills that do get passed. Members couldn't rely on staffers to tell them what's in a bill, they would have to know it for themselves. So even though they will pass fewer bills, ironically, Congress will also probably take fewer days off.
We encourage you to tell your Representatives and Senators that there is one simple thing they can do to make Congress function better and increase its approval ratings. Tell them there is one thing they can do to slow down government growth and increase human liberty. Tell them to introduce the Read the Bills Act.
We also invite you to help spread the word about the Read the Bills Act by adding your website or blog to the Read the Bills Act Coalition. Joining is quick and easy, and in return your site will be added to Downsize DC's blogroll. More information is at our website.
While the Senate took last week off, the House met for a couple of days, and managed to pass 13 bills totaling 164 pages. If you would like to find out more, the bills are listed at the bottom of the blog version of this Dispatch.
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.
Was not in session this week.
HOUSE, 13 bills, 164 pages
Extending the District of Columbia College Access Act of 1999: Concur in Senate amendment to H.R. 1124, to extend the District of Columbia College Access Act of 1999--clearing the measure for the President. 1 page
Charles H. Hendix Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 3518, amended, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1430 South Highway 29 in Cantonment, Florida, as the ``Charles H. Hendix Post Office Building." 1 page
Chief Warrant Officer Aaron Weaver Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 3530, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1400 Highway 41 North in Inverness, Florida, as the ``Chief Warrant Officer Aaron Weaver Post Office Building." 1 page
Lance Corporal David K. Fribley Post Office Designation Act: H.R. 3308, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 216 East Main Street in Atwood, Indiana, as the ``Lance Corporal David K. Fribley Post Office." 1 page
Children's Gasoline Burn Prevention Act: H.R. 814, amended, to require the Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue regulations mandating child-resistant closures on all portable gasoline containers. 6 pages.
Danny Keysar Child Product Safety Notification Act: H.R. 1699, amended, to direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission to require certain manufacturers to provide consumer product registration forms to facilitate recalls of durable infant and toddler products. 8 pages
Providing for an increased maximum civil penalty for violations under the Consumer Product Safety Act: H.R. 2474, amended, to provide for an increased maximum civil penalty for violations under the Consumer Product Safety Act. 6 pages.
Pool and Spa Safety Act: H.R. 1721, amended, to increase the safety of swimming pools and spas by requiring the use of proper anti-entrapment drain covers and pool and spa drainage systems, by establishing a swimming pool safety grant program administered by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to encourage States to improve their pool and spa safety laws and to educate the public about pool and spa safety. 16 pages.
Public Diplomacy Resource Centers Act of 2007: H.R. 2553, amended, to amend the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 to provide for the establishment and maintenance of existing libraries and resource centers at United States diplomatic and consular missions to provide information about American culture, society, and history. 6 pages.
Amending the Tropical Forest Conservation Act of 1998 to provide debt relief to developing countries that take action to protect forests and coral reefs and associated coastal marine ecosystems and reauthorizing such Act through fiscal year 2010: H.R. 2185, amended, to amend the Tropical Forest Conservation Act of 1998 to provide debt relief to developing countries that take action to protect forests and coral reefs and associated coastal marine ecosystems and to reauthorize such Act through fiscal year 2010. 14 pages.
War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007: H.R. 400, amended, to prohibit profiteering and fraud relating to military action, relief, and reconstruction efforts, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 375 yeas to 3 nays, Roll No. 950. 6 pages.
National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act of 2007: The House passed H.R. 2895, to establish the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund in the Treasury of the United States to provide for the construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of decent, safe, and affordable housing for low-income families, by a yea-and-nay vote of 264 yeas to 148 nays, Roll No. 958. 64 pages.
Tax Collection Responsibility Act of 2007: The House passed H.R. 3056, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the authority of the Internal Revenue Service to use private debt collection companies, to delay implementation of withholding taxes on government contractors, and to revise the tax rules on expatriation, by a recorded vote of 232 ayes to 173 noes, Roll No. 960. 34 pages.