September 29, 2009

How reasonable is the "Read the Bill" movement?

The "Read the Bill" movement — requiring legislators to fully read and understand a bill's language before voting on it — sounds reasonable. But the Washington Post wonders if it's even possible:

Politicians are asked to make all sorts of unwise promises. The latest: A group of well-meaning professional activists -- and, so far, over nearly 60,000 online petitioners -- want members of Congress to sign a pledge never to vote on any bill unless they have read "every word" of it.

They have a point. But their proposal would bring government to a standstill.

The editorial warns that requiring Congressmen to read "every word" would effectively bring Congress to a halt. As if that would be a bad thing.

Perhaps one of the points of the "Read the Bill" movement is to show that if Congressmen claim not to even have time to read the bills they vote on, Congress is doing too much.

Regardless, there are other options available. "Read the Bill" provisions could be enacted on bills that exceed a page or dollar limit. When Congress is planning on spending a significant amounts of money or giving legislators a chance to hide earmarks reading the bill is most necessary.

Or what if Congress stopped trying to run and regulate everything and reduced bills to a more manageable length?