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Read the Bills Act Introduced in the U.S. House for the First Time
But is this good news?
by Jim Babka
A Read the Bills Act (RTBA) has finally been introduced in the U.S. House by first-term, Representative Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI).
This bill uses our name — the Read the Bills Act — and huge chunks of the text from our bill. This is good news.
Even better, Bentivolio has improved our version in at least two ways. He added . . .
- A requirement for a roll call vote on every bill
- A provision to make bills easier to comprehend
This is PROGRESS. And...
Your pressure made this day possible!
The news isn’t all good. Bentivolio also made negative changes that gut the bill.Heremoved...
- Our findings — the factual reasons why the bill is needed
- The requirement that any member voting YES on a bill has to sign an affidavit swearing that he or she has either read the bill, or heard it read.
- The requirement that each bill must be read aloud before a majority in each chamber.
Please let me tell you why these are bad changes...
The Courts like to defer to Congress. Findings tell the courts why Congress passed the bill. This means...
- Our findings made it more likely that our version of RTBA would withstand judicial scrutiny.
- By removing our findings Bentivolio has made his bill much harder to defend and enforce in Court.
We think politicians should swear that they’ve read every bill they want to impose on you. That’s what our affidavit clause requires. Instead...
Bentivolio’s RTBA substitutes a roll call vote in the affidavit’s place, with the suggestion that a YES vote means the member read the bill. We could grudgingly live with that, BUT...
Why give up the point in advance?
Why not try for both the affidavit and the roll call vote, and only trade one of them away for something really valuable, as part of a final negotiation? Why surrender the point before the negotiations have even begun?
The Quorum Reading Requirement
Our RTBA requires that each bill be read before a quorum (a majority, per the Constitution) in each chamber prior to a final vote. Bentivolio’s RTBA removes this provision.
We think this last change guts the bill!
We think the quorum reading requirement is the most important part of OUR RTBA. Because, as I’ve told hundreds of audiences...
"The mind will only procure what the hiney will endure. Make Congress have to hear their legislation being read and the bills will become fewer and shorter.”
This one provision is the real reform in OUR RTBA. Without it...
This bill contains NOTHING that will substantially change Congressional behavior. A seven day waiting period only means that you, the media, and the watchdog groups you trust, like Downsize DC, has more time to review legislation than we have in the past. In fact...
- Members of Congress can decide to lie about reading the bill when casting a yes vote under Bentivolio’s roll call vote provision or our affidavit, and many of them will.
- Congress can also game our 7-day waiting-period...
Whereas putting Congressional hineys through an entire reading ensured a manageable amount of legislation to read...
Now, Congress could shove 4,000 pages of legislation into the que, with all of it coming up for a vote on the same day.
The waiting period, alone, can’t stop that from happening.
Every other provision is nice, but ONLY the quorum reading requirement would actually change Congressional behavior.
We’ve accomplished much. In the previous term in Congress, we got the One Subject at a Time Act introduced, in both houses of Congress, for the first time. We also got the Read the Bills Act and the Write the Laws Act introduced in the Senate by Rand Paul.
Getting the Read the Bills Act introduced is progress. It might be the best sunshine bill ever introduced in Congress. But transparency was always secondary to changing congressional behavior.
If this other Read the Bills Act bill does NOT actually give us a lever to Downsize DC, then we cannot be satisfied with this amount of progress.
So how can we take this project to the next level?
First, we must lead by example.
We want to add Bentivolio’s improvements to our bill. This is step one in trying to persuade him to restore our findings and the quorum reading requirement.
It won’t cost much to do this. But it will cost something, and we want to do it immediately. Can you help accomplish this by making a contribution to fund the legal bill?
Second, we want to ask Bentivolio to restore our findings and quorum reading requirement.
You can help do this by leaving a message on his Facebook page.
- Be grateful for his introduction of the bill (if you do nothing else, please do this)
- Thank him for his improvements to the bill
- Please be polite in asking him to restore Downsize DC’s findings and quorum reading requirements — we want to work with him to make this happen.