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Read the Bill... If You Can

Updated on November 25, 2019
Aaron Huddart profile image

Podcaster and Freelance Writer, community leader, and active political commentator. Former State Representative Nominee.

Read the Bill

In reference to the ObamaCare bill, in 2010 Nancy Pelosi said, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it." She does not deny that fact, and to this day stands behind it, kind of. On June 20, 2017 she tweeted ".@SenJohnMcCain calling out Republican hypocrisy is music to my ears. Americans deserve to know what’s in the bill. #Trumpcare" This Tweet does seem to go against her approach in 2010. Then there is this quote. “I love these members, they get up and say, ‘Read the bill,’” said Rep. John Conyers. “What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”

Well, I think I have the answer. And both Pelosi and Conyers are right, the members of congress can’t read the bills, so they need to pass them to find out what is in them. Let me explain. The House bill for ACA (Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare) was H. R. 3962 and had 363,086 words in it. Reading at a fast pace (450 words per minute) it would take 807 minutes to read the entire bill. What is 807 minutes? 34 days of non-stop reading.

No wonder Pelosi said, “We have to pass the bill to find out what is in it.” There was no time to read it and understand what it would do. The only way to know, is to put it into place and find out what happens. Well, the problem with that is, once a law is in place, especially one that large, undoing it takes a decade or more.

Bookworm or lawmaker

I’m no lawyer or law maker, so I don’t fully understand the need to have 1,500+ page bills. All I know is that what is happening now in Washington DC isn’t working. In the 115th House Congress (2017-2018) they voted on over 1,200 bills. At 1,500 pages (like H. R. 3962), it would take over 40,000 days to read, or 110 years. And that is just for 2 years of work.

How can any member of Congress feel good about simply voting for 1,200 bills, knowing they don’t fully understand everything that is in them, then go out and tell the public that they are doing a great job and should be reelected? Maybe the question should be just, how can they feel good passing bills they don’t get the chance to fully read.

Now I get that there are a lot of bills that pass that are passed as Unanimous Consent, and many of those are simply formalities and recognitions of special events or achievements. These bills would not need to necessarily be read every time, but that is only a few hundred a year. Leaving 500-800 more bills, that would be written, read, debated, and voted on in a two-year term.

Job duties

All of that, and they still need to meet with their constituents, you and me, their staff, interviews with the media, campaign stops, fundraising, time with their family, travel time, eating and sleeping, and maybe even a vacation. Yes, Conyers was very right, there is no time left to read bills. Maybe that is where the issue lies. Maybe we need to demand a change that bills must be shorter, and vote on only the bills that have had the chance to be read.

Maybe one of our questions to our Representatives and Senators should be, how many bills have you voted on without reading it, and how did you vote on those bills? Then explain that your decision to vote for them depends on how they answer that question. I wonder if that might start changing how they do their job that we are paying them hundreds of thousands of dollars to do.

Join me

I’d love to hear your thoughts on holding your employees accountable to doing their jobs. After all, what happens if you don’t do part of your job? Have you ever tried this; how did it go? Is it even fair to ask them about this? Did I get anything wrong?

Anyway, this will now be one my questions to those I vote for, will you join me?

© 2019 Aaron L Huddart


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