Saturday, August 08, 2009

Read the bill - H.R. 3200 you can't read

How can we take Congress seriously? They are building such a mess in three bills that no one knows what is in it at any point in time. And then it changes. Committee Chairman John Conyers brags "what use is it reading the bill if it's 1,000 pages and you don't have two days and two lawyers to help you understand what's it means?" He just admitted that he makes people vote on bills whose contents they don't know. Even the establishment Washington Post is aghast. You literally can't read this bill. You have to have a host of laws memorized to even attempt to make sense of it. And it's so cobbled together it can't possibly be consistent. Like Sausage-Making, Reforming Health Care Is a Messy Business -
... In recent months, there has been much GOP criticism of Democrats for passing legislation that some lawmakers have not read. But the bills are not exactly beach reading. They are legal documents crammed with legislative coding, sentence fragments and assorted gibberish that modifies laws already on the books somewhere. To really understand what a bill says, you'd need to have the existing laws memorized. Here's a fairly typical passage from H.R. 3200:
Section 1834(a)(7)(A)(iii) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395m(a)(7)(A)(iii)) is amended (1) in the heading, by inserting 'CERTAIN COMPLEX REHABILITATIVE' after 'OPTION FOR'; and (2) by striking 'power-driven wheelchair' and inserting 'complex rehabilitative power-driven wheelchair recognized by the Secretary as classified within group 3 or higher.'
And that goes on for a thousand pages. [There are 3 bills.] The frenetic nature of the Capitol this week was the result of a strategic decision by the Obama administration to let lawmakers do most of the heavy lifting on health-care reform. Obama did not want a repeat of "Hillarycare," the ill-fated proposal during the first term of President Clinton. Then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton put together that plan and presented it to Congress for essentially an up-or-down vote. "I've never seen anything like this. Hillarycare, we got one very long and impressive lecture by Hillary," said Rep. Peter A. Defazio (D-Ore.). Before either chamber can vote on a bill, the committee chairmen, along with congressional leaders, will have to merge the disparate versions into a single bill to bring to the floor. Whatever is passed by the two chambers must then be reconciled again in "conference." The conference committee would then produce a final bill that would have to be voted on by each chamber. If passed, the bill would go to the president. If he found it acceptable, he would sign it.
Nancy Pelosi might appear to compromise with the less-liberal "Blue Dog" Democrats, but don't let her fool you. The only real bill will be the "conference report" that is supposed to be the combination of the versions the House and the Senate pass. But strong-arm leaders like Pelosi won't allow it to contain anything they don't want, so she will put in a complete rewrite. That's when her compromises with the foolish industry groups and Blue Dog Democrats will mysteriously disappear. And then they will be in a big hurry to vote today. "No time to read it." Via Virginia Postrel, the Dynamist.


Mike Sheridan said...

Best alternative to reading the bill is reading the CRS reports. You can get them at The CRS site Members of Congress use is not accessible to the public.

Ron said...

How does CRS help when 300 pages of amendments to the Cap and Trade bill were dropped at 3 am and Pelosi demanded the vote the same day?