July 14, 2009
The Real Deal
By James Wilson

MEDIA ALERT: President Jim Babka will be a guest on Free Talk Live TONIGHT beginning at 7:06 pm Eastern. You can listen at

Quote of the Day: "If a bill for which there is no copy were to actually pass this body, could the bill without a copy be sent to the Senate for its consideration?" -- Rep. Joe Barton

Subject: The Real Deal

Last week we told you about a proposed new ruling that would adversely affect the pocketknife industry. The proposal from Customs is 63 pages long. Opponents rightly complained that the 30-day window for public comments wasn't long enough.

However, compared to Congress, unelected bureaucrats are models of transparency. Consider how the House passed the Cap & Trade bill . . .

Such shenanigans are not new, but they're increasingly commonplace. The American people are growing disgusted that Congress doesn't read the bills they pass. They're tired of Congress's lack of transparency and failure of representation. has the solution, the Read the Bills Act (RTBA).

This solution scares the Establishment. That's why other organizations are stepping in with watered-down proposals.

  • One foundation seeks to "foster public trust in government," not to downsize it. They want bills posted on-line for 72 hours before they're considered on the House floor. But most people with jobs and families can't read a 1,400 bill in three days. Think tanks, journalists, and activist groups won't have enough time to analyze it either. Moreover, this proposed rule can be overturned in case of "emergency," which means everything would become an emergency.
  • Another organization threatens to turn "reading the bills" into a sickening partisan issue. It actually boasts of its efforts on behalf of George W. Bush's re-election in 2004. It wants members of Congress to sign a pledge that they will not vote for the health care reform bill if they haven't read it and if it hasn't been posted on the Internet for, yes, 72 hours.

Why don't they have this pledge for other bills?

The drawback of such a proposal is that . . .

  • Republicans who won't vote for the bill anyway can easily sign this pledge
  • Democratic leaders will view reading the bills as a partisan grandstanding issue rather than a substantive reform
  • They could rightfully ask why Republicans weren't so keen on reading bills when they were in power.

In contrast, first proposed the Read the Bills Act in 2005, when Republicans were in power, in reaction to Bush bills like the Patriot Act, Intelligence Reorganization, and the Medicare Drug Benefit.

The Read the Bills Act is the "real deal" . . .

  • It requires bills to be read by a quorum in Congress. They won't sit for 1,000 page readings, so bills will be much shorter.
  • Those who were not present for the reading must sign an affidavit stating that they have read and understand the bill before voting for it.
  • Bills in their final, amended form must be posted on the Internet for a full week before the final vote is taken, giving more people more time to read them and give their representatives informed feedback.
  • No exceptions can be made.

Tell Congress to introduce and pass's Read the Bills Act. Also tell them . . .

  • this isn't a partisan issue; the first version of the RTBA was written in 2005 in reaction to the GOP Congress
  • while regulatory agencies often allow a month or more for comments, the RTBA requires only a week for finalized bills to be posted on the Internet
  • watered-down reforms like the 72-hour rule are cosmetic changes that won't stop scandalous 1,400 page bills from being passed

To exceed the 43,290 messages Downsizers sent to Congress last month we must send 1,871 messages today.

Also, please consider adding your blog or website to the Read the Bills Act Coalition. This is an effortless way to spread the word about RTBA, and in exchange your site will be listed on our blog and mentioned in a Dispatch like this. Details are here.

This week we welcome 4 new members of the Coalition:

Thank you for being a DC Downsizer. To see how we're growing, see our Keeping Score Section below my signature.

James Wilson
Assistant to the President


We've grown by 230 net new members since yesterday! This brings us to 2,608 net new members for the year. The Downsize DC Army now stands at 26,964 -- 96% of the way from 26,000 to 27,000! We're about to reach another milestone!

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