"Read the Bill" Isn't Realistic

It's not as practical or easy as it sounds.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

While Peter may be a strong advocate of and a principal conceiver behind the "read the bill" movement, Politico has a good piece today reminding us all why members of Congress often don't read the bill in the first place. It's not (for the most part) laziness or legislative malfeasance:

But reading actual legislative text is often the least productive way to learn what’s actually in a bill.

Consider the House health care bill (or bills, as it were). The 1,017-page text is a tangle of references to other clauses, sections and subsections of the bill as well as numerous other statutes — some passed ages ago, all a pain to locate and search, even online: “Section 1179 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1320d-8) is amended” by striking this and inserting that, or “the tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as a tax imposed by this chapter for the purposes of determining the amount of any credit under this chapter or for the purposes of section 55.”

There is certainly something to be said for not rushing legislation through before someone can read it. And legislators should certainly be responsible for ascertaining and digesting a bill's contents. But having a member of Congress read every page of every bill before voting on it would be an absurdly inefficient use of their time.