Do Congress members even read legislation before voting?

By Larry Penner

Today’s generation in Congress could learn much from the late Idaho Republican Sen. James A. McClure, who died seven years ago on Feb. 26, 2011.

His claim to fame on Capitol Hill was for his 18 years in Congress, he read every word of every bill before voting on it. For many years, he signed his own mail.

Fast forward to today, did members of Congress take an Evelyn Wood speed-reading class to absorb the 2,232 pages contained in the fourth temporary Stop Gap spending bill for $1.3 trillion, which will cover the remaining sixth months of our current federal fiscal year?

This legislation passed in the dead of night with no real debate. They received this bill with less than 24 hours before being asked to vote up or down. Only the infamous Washington “K” Street lobbyists, key congressional staff members employed by the House and Senate leadership teams who actually wrote the fine print within the 2,232 pages on behalf of their bosses had any idea of the details buried in the actual contents.

There should be a two-week minimum time-out period. This would provide adequate time for members of Congress but also ordinary citizens, the media and independent good government watchdog groups to understand all of the contents contained in any proposed bill. Everyone would also have the opportunity under an open process to comment and discuss the merits or consequences before others vote up or down for adoption.

This bill broke the 2011 Budget Control Act spending caps agreement, which was designed to reduce our multitrillion-dollar long-term debt. It was supposed to result in a real balanced budget with no borrowing within ten years. Instead, we added $78 billion in additional military and $52 billion in domestic spending by borrowing.

No attempt was made to offset these expenditures with real cuts elsewhere. Promised anticipated “savings” projected to pay for increases down the road never happen. Liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, we would all be better off if members of Congress would take time to actually read, line by line and openly debate in public any proposed legislation before voting. Their legislative actions affect both our economic and civil liberties. Future generations have to pay for and live with the consequences of a $21 trillion national debt.

This red ink is on a path to grow $1 trillion annually for years to come.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

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