Herbert Sweet

Herbert Sweet

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Should Congressmen Read Every Bill?

Looking through Google, I see a lot of sentiment supporting the idea that Congressmen should not only read the healthcare bill but should read all of the bills that they pass. I suspect that, even with all of their waking hours devoted to reading bills and even with the staff assisting in their understanding, it might be a physical impossibility. This might be confirmed by checking the bills passed at Thomas.gov.

Could this be resolved by making the laws shorter? Just from my limited experience of writing zoning laws, I would say no. Laws have to be very explicit otherwise they end up as either unenforceable or in court.

If my suspicions are correct, the ideas circulating around that Congressmen should pledge to read all of the bills is just a tactic used by those who oppose the passing of bills they don't like.

What to do about this? The answer seems to me to be that, to handle a lot of information, a lot of people are needed. There would be those who establish the goals and concepts, those who translate that to a structured approach to reach those goals and concepts and, finally, those who construct the detailed text.

After all this is done, there needs to be a structure to verify that everything has been done according to the demands of Congress. It certainly should be Congress that puts it all in motion. For all I know, this is the way that it works. At least I hope it does. If the staff is running the place and Congressmen are negligent (which I'm sure many are), we're in trouble!

1 comment:

  1. I attended a County Legislature meeting last week to speak out in favor of appointing a County Historian. There was much public comment on a bill before the Legislature. Most of those commenting against it appeared to have either not read it or were deliberately voicing invalid arguments. While I am not speaking in favor or against it necessarily here, it is unfortunate how much time is spent spreading arguments that do not apply to the issues and in responding to those arguments. As nearly as I can determine, this is how it is on every level [local zoning amendments, national health care reform, global environmental conferences]. Every reader and interpreter of the information puts their own spin on it to influence others. I don't know what the answer is, but I do agree that no one Congressman can possibly read and digest every part of every piece of legislation. They must at least get to those bills for which they qualify as substance experts, and interpret the issues for the public. And their constituents should follow their legislators at least to a degree sufficient to choose whether or not they trust those interpretations.