Congress Vehemently Opposed to Reading the Legislation It Votes On

The Washington Times ran a great editorial this morning regarding the majority of Congress’s continued refusal to actually read the bills before voting on them.

No simpler requirement for good government could be imagined. When what is at stake is a revolutionary change in the entire organization of 17 percent of the economy – not to mention the delivery of services that could mean the difference between life and death for millions of Americans each year – it is basic common sense to insist that our lawmakers know and understand what they are voting on – and that includes the fine print.

Recall the passing of Waxman-Markey by the House, which had 300 pages added 18 hours before the floor vote–almost certainly going unread by most members of Congress. Furthermore, the nonplussed responses from administration backers and Democrats in Congress–when pressed to read the legislation they vote on or support–should be infuriating to anyone in favor of transparency and responsibility in government. As CEI Adjunct Fellow Fran Smith noted, some on the left went as far to claim that members of Congress uncomfortable with voting for climate change legislation in the dark were guilty of “treason against the planet.”

The editorial goes on to mention the “Pledge to Read” campaign launched by Let Freedom Ring, a conservative activist group. The pledge calls for members of Congress to read any new health care legislation in its entirety before voting up or down. Reasonable enough, right? Wrong.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid say they can’t be bothered with such essentials. On June 25, both declined to promise to give the public a week to review any major health care reform. Mrs. Pelosi did not even respond to a question posed at a press briefing by Cybercast News Service about whether the Congressional Budget Office would have time to “score” the bill’s final price tag.

This is not just a pet issue of the “Vast Right-wing Conspiracy.” The libertarian activists at Downsize DC have been advocating a Read the Bills Act for years, and a left-leaning coalition at is also demanding that Congress read the legislation before voting on it. But don’t hold your breath for Congress to actually implement such sensible, transpartisan-supported reform.