Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hey Congress, how about reading the Constitution?

I have long felt our (imperial?) federal government is out of control. It has become too big, too unwieldy, overly complex and completely unresponsive to the very people it is supposed to serve. Just take a look at the hideous federal tax code - all 44,000+ pages of it.

As such, I was not all that surprised when certain congressional elected representatives recently admitted to not having read many of the bills they have actually voted on, or that are currently floating (clunking?) around the halls of congress. While this revelation angered many, including me, I can at least understand, in part, why this is: The damn things are just too long and incomprehensible.

Gene Healy feels similarly, and has hit on something that could actually make a difference (emphasis mine):

You can live in this town for years and still occasionally find yourself gobsmacked by what counts as "normal" by Washington standards. Take the ongoing debate over whether it's fair for us to expect our elected representatives to read the laws they pass and expect us to follow.

Recently, Sen. Thomas Carper, D-DE, and Rep. John Conyers, D-MI, scoffed at the idea that they should read the health care legislation working its way through Congress (hey, it's only a matter of life and death). That attitude has inspired the "Read to Vote" campaign--designed to get congressmen to pledge to "read every word of every bill before casting my vote."

Read to Vote's efforts earned them a condescending Washington Post editorial last month, complaining that their proposal "would bring government to a standstill." (Heaven forbid.) "To read all 1,427 pages of Waxman-Markey," the Post fretted, "it would take at least 12 hours -- tough on a tight legislative timeline."


In February 2003, the New York Times reported that both parties had hired lawyers to run seminars for congressmen, explaining the requirements of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law they had just passed. "I didn't realize what all was in it," said Rep. Robert Matsui (D.-CA); "A real education process," echoed Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (R.-NY).


A better idea can be found in a resolution recently introduced by Sen. Jim Bunning, R-KY, requiring all new legislation to be posted online for 72 hours before consideration. That could put the distributed intelligence of the web to work, ferreting out the many devils in the details of proposed laws.


Read the bills? It's more important for congressmen to read the Constitution. They'll be pleased to learn that it's short and written in plain English.

You will find Gene Healy's entire Washington Examiner column here.

Perhaps if those charged with representing us in D.C. would take the time to read our nation's founding document and actually heed it's limitations on the powers of government our founder's placed therein, just maybe those hideous and over-sized bills would cut themselves down to size.

I won't hold my breath waiting.

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When liberty is taken away by force it can be restored by force. When it is relinquished voluntarily by default it can never be recovered. -Dorothy Thompson