Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On reading the Constitution and reading legislation

I must applaud the reading of the Constitution in the House of Representatives last week.

Unfortunately, I also must condemn the fact that, as I expected, most House members -- especially Democrats -- didn't care to stick around to hear the reading. I suspect that those who were absent were those who most need to know what the Constitution says. What good does it do to read something if the people who need the information aren't there to hear it?

Additionally, it is outrageous that nobody noticed or cared that an entire page was skipped during the reading. After this display of incompetence does any congressman really expect us voters to have confidence when Congress asserts the right and the power to do more complicated things than reading the Constitution?

I don't expect that the reading of the constitution was anything more than a token symbol to appease us voters who are disgusted with Washington's disdain for the limits the Constitution places on the central government. In fact, the widespread absence of elected representatives and the omission of an entire page are more symbolic than the actual reading itself. Consequently, I cannot trust Congress to change its anti-constitution ways in any meaningful manner.

This brings up another issue regarding reading. I have no confidence in the House's new "read the bill" rule. I do not trust any member of the House will use the 3-day waiting period to do any study of any legislation. After all, most of the House couldn't even sit still to hear a reading of the Constitution (it only takes an hour or so to read)!

Instead of the inadequate House "read the bill" rule I urge you to aggressively work for the immediate enactment of DownsizeDC.org's "Read the Bills Act." This would be a real reform because it requires
• A quorum to be present while every word of every bill is read.
• Each congressman to sign an affidavit that he has read, or heard read, every word of the bill before casting an affirmative vote.
• That courts hold citizens blameless against any legislation passed in violation of these requirements.
I would add another feature to DownsizeDC.org's "Read the Bills Act:" Prohibit congressmen from voting on any legislation unless they pass, with a score of 100%, a test on the contents of that legislation, including all amendments. Any congressman who fails such a test would be required to post notice of that failure in a prominent place on his website and in all correspondence to constituents for the remainder of his term or 5 years, whichever is greater. I would also require the president to pass the same test with the same score before he can sign it. If he fails the test, the legislation would be automatically vetoed and he also would be required to post notice of that failure in a prominent place on the Whitehouse website and in all correspondence for the remainder of his term or 5 years, whichever is greater.

I urge Congress to end the meaningless symbolism and bring Congress into full compliance with the long-ignored Constitution. DownsizeDC.org's "Read the Bills Act" is a step in that direction.

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