You can’t MAKE a legislator read a bill, but you can make them wait – Updated (Twice)

David Post at Volokh Conspiracy is proposing that legislators should be required to read a bill before they vote on it.  The problem is that it would be difficult to enforce.  Same as you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, you can’t make a politician sit in front of a piece of legislation and read every word.  Anybody who’s gone to college and spent an evening snoozing with their nose in a text book can tell you that.  What’s going to happen?  Is there going to be a test in the morning?

I have a better idea.  A 30 day cooling off period before the congresscritters (or other legislators) can vote.  For 30 days, the bill has to be presented to the public for review.  Not posted in the personal pages of some fishwrap that nobody reads like the New York Times, but online and available for review for 30 full days.  Twenty-nine days, twenty three hours, fifty-nine minutes and the act can be declared unconstitutional and overturned.

  1. This is not a vote on it and then post it for review after the horse has disappeared over the horizon.  It has to be posted intact before voting so the legislators have to hear from their constituencies before they vote.  If it is amended, the clock starts over.
  2. I originally thought that declarations of war and other emergencies should be exempted.  But actually, the War Powers Act gives the President 30 days to act without Congressional approval.
  3. Would it grind the work of the legislature to a halt?  Oh, hell yes.  And that is a feature, not a bug.  WAY too many bills are rushed through, poorly thought out, univestigated to test over and over again the law of unforeseen consequences.  Proposed regulations generally have to be open to public comment before they can be enacted.  That is a fine rule and should be applied to Congress as well.  Many a bad regulation has been undone by public opposition during the comment period.
  4. Update – This would not be a separation of powers issue as brought up in the comments.  It would be a constitutional procedure in order to pass a bill for submittal to the president for signature, just like it has to be passed by both chambers.  It would be the courts that would determine unconstitionality if the bill were to be rushed.
  5. (Update II) The problem with reading the bill before is it still doesn’t prevent an entrenched power like the Democrats from ramming through legislative obscenities by having a reader read really fast.  This isn’t 1793 any more and communications doesn’t take months.  There is every reason to require posting a bill for public review before it can be voted on.

This is an interesting train of thought.  Comments?


2 comments so far

  1. tom on

    “Twenty-nine days, twenty three hours, fifty-nine minutes and the act can be declared unconstitutional and overturned.”

    You might want to reconsider that part. Separation of powers, etc.


  2. tom on

    Check out It turns out only 6% of America thinks this is a bad idea. Possibly even more significant: Only 10% are unsure!


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