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Reading legislation...It's your job!

By Frank Salvato
web posted August 3, 2009

It would appear that some of our elected officials – oh heck, let's say most of our elected officials – believe it isn't necessary to read legislation before voting on it. A perfect example of this is playing out right now in Congress with regard to the healthcare legislation where several high-ranking elected officials have unabashedly stated that expecting elected officials to read legislation, in its entirety, before voting on it, is to expect too much. Really...

Recently, at a National Press Club Luncheon, Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said:

"I love these members who stand up and say, 'Read the bill!'. What good is reading the bill if it's a thousand pages and...and you don't have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?"

Note to Mr. Conyers: It's your job to read every bill you vote on. If the job requires an intelligence quotient "above your pay grade," perhaps you should consider leaving public office for a job for which you are more intellectually suited.

In addition to Conyers – the same John Conyers that doesn't believe it is necessary to investigate the questionable activity of ACORN and from whom we have heard nary a peep about the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case that Attorney General Eric Holder refuses to prosecute with any zeal – we now here that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland doesn't think any House member will read – or should be expected to read – the proposed health care legislation before they vote on it.

Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe writes:

At a news conference a few weeks back, Hoyer was asked by a reporter if he would support a pledge committing members of Congress to read the bill before voting on it and to make the bill available for public review for 72 hours prior to the vote.

Hoyer responded, as he laughed – laughed:

"I'm laughing because I don't know how long this bill is going to be, but it's going to be a very long bill...If every member pledged not to vote for it if they hadn't read it in its entirety I think we would have very few votes."

Personally, I don't find anything funny about the issue or Hoyer's statement, nor that of Mr. Conyers.

We the People, elect people to go to Washington, to be seated in our federal government, to do the work of government, not to occupy seats in Congress to pledge votes for political parties.

The premier job of an elected official is to secure the rights of their constituents in the face of federal legislation, whether that legislation is aimed at their locale or not. The only way – only way – that can be done is for each and every elected official to thoroughly read and understand each and every piece of legislation that they are set to vote on. Today, this isn't happening. Today we have elected officials in Congress who are literally derelict in their sworn duties; elected officials who have put their political parties and ideologies above the interests of their constituencies.

Elected officials have become dependent on their "staffers," who constitute – in most cases – a group of political partisans whose jobs are to amass passable vote totals so that their party either keeps the majority designation or is put into a position to become the majority. It has absolutely nothing to do with protecting the rights of an elected official's constituency or executing good government. And while there is a place for the political operative in every elected official's office (they are, in fact, elected through the political process), the act of legislation is where their influence should count the least and where a proper understanding of the wants and needs of the elected official's constituency should be adequately understood and served.

Congressman Conyers, ironically, actually hit upon something, although I am sure he didn't understand that he did – I mean really, he doesn't see ACORN as a corrupt organization worth investigating. When Conyers said lawyers were needed to explain the bills to elected officials if they were to read pieces of legislation in their entirety before voting on them, a few things came to mind:

▪ If you need lawyers to explain the bills to you prior to a vote then perhaps staffers who concern themselves with politics should be dispatched from employment to make more capital available to hire more lawyers to explain the bills.

▪ If you need staffers and lawyers to explain pieces of legislation to you – even after you have personally read the bill – perhaps the job is above your intellectual abilities and you should consider bowing out so that your constituency is better served.

▪ If more time is needed to consume and understand legislation then take more time. The American people now understand, fully, that rushing legislation through the process only means you're trying to hide something.

▪ If bills are so long that elected officials can't consume them prior to voting on them perhaps we should abolish the amendment process in the Legislative Branch and insist that elected officials vote on each component to legislation on a stand-alone basis. Not only would that shorten the length of legislation but it would expose each elected official for their votes on each and every issue; expose their votes for their constituents to see.

There is absolutely no excuse for an elected official not to read legislation before it is voted on. It is bad government. In fact, the only thing that voting on legislation before it is understood accomplishes is to move our government toward factionalism; toward oligarchy, where the few political party leaders are in total control of government. A government run by factionalism, by oligarchy, my fellow Americans, is where we find ourselves today. It was something that the Founders warned us about in no uncertain terms! ESR

Frank Salvato is the Executive Director and Director of Terrorism Research for BasicsProject.org a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(c)(3) research and education initiative. His writing has been recognized by the US House International Relations Committee and the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention. His organization, BasicsProject.org, partnered in producing the original national symposium series addressing the root causes of radical Islamist terrorism. He is a member of the International Analyst Network. He also serves as the managing editor for The New Media Journal. Mr. Salvato has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor on FOX News Channel, and is a regular guest on talk radio including on The Captain's America Radio Show airing on AM1220 WSRQ and on the Internet catering to the US Armed Forces around the world and on The Roth Show with Dr. Laurie Roth syndicated nationally on the USA Radio Network. His opinion-editorials have been published by The American Enterprise Institute, The Washington Times & Human Events and are syndicated nationally. He is occasionally quoted in The Federalist. Mr. Salvato is available for public speaking engagements. He can be contacted at newmediajournal@att.net.

 

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