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John Conyers Reading Bills: What For?

John Conyers (D-Mich), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee spoke at a National Press Club luncheon and pondered the question; why should members of Congress have to read these bills anyway? My question is this Mr. Conyers, why have 1000 page bills?

John Conyers said at a National Press Club luncheon:

"What good is reading the bill if it's a thousand pages and you don't have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?"

Good point Rep. Conyers, but I'm sure you would vote for it anyway. The arrogance of these people is stunning. Conyers actually makes a point of telling us what we already know. First, they don't read the bills. Second, the bills are too big even for the smartest people in the room like Conyers. And third, he illustrates that no bill of 1000 pages is necessary; yet those in Congress write them every day.

How do these people continue to be elected?

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself to the Wizbang community. This is my first post here and I am looking forward to the dialogue and the (I'm sure sometimes intense) debate. You can call me Walker. Great to be here.

Rep. John Conyers

(Note: The video site has been down on occasion today)


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Comments (38)

There's a hint of ridiculou... (Below threshold)
James H:

There's a hint of ridiculousness here. It is ridiculous to expect a member of Congress to digest a 1,000-page bill in two days. However ... that member of Congress has staff members who are supposed to do this sort of thing. And I don't think it's ridiculous to ask those staff members to pore through the bills and summarize them for the members of Congress voting on them.

If the job is too much for the existing staff, then hire more staff. If you need lawyers to interpret the bills, hire more lawyers.

On a side note, I am an attorney, and I would be interested in working on Capitol Hill ...

THEN WHY THE HELL ARE YOU S... (Below threshold)
mag:

THEN WHY THE HELL ARE YOU SIGNING THESE BILLS???

I meant to say voting for t... (Below threshold)
mag:

I meant to say voting for these bills.

Indeed. I cannot think of ... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

Indeed. I cannot think of any reason that any legislative bill should be 1000 pages - or perhaps even half that. I presume that as long as Mr Conyers has his own particular riders in the bill, he cares little else what his esteemed colleagues have added. If he doesn't rock their boat they will not rock his. Although a congressman should be ashamed for not being aware of what is in a bill for which he/she is casting a vote, he/she probably feels it is less of an embarrassment to admit ignorance than be aware and be questioned about the uncomfortable details. It is up to the citizens of this country to remind these elected officials for whom they work. It is unthinkable that you would casually walk up to your boss and be so open about what is so "inconvenient" about your job. But like the seals at a water show we've more and more allow the government to tell us what we can and cannot do for whatever fish they decide to toss our way.

Idiots like this should not... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Idiots like this should not be voted out of office. Given the level of public trust given to them to do their job, the punishment should be either putting them in prison or putting them up against a wall, blindfolded. And quite frankly, I'm leaning towards the latter. I think it will send a better "message". Democrats are all about "messages". How many politicians have already been sent to prison? Evidently it didn't faze Conyer's wife.

Good post, Walker, and welc... (Below threshold)
Kathy:

Good post, Walker, and welcome to the chorus, I'll look forward to your posts.

Perhaps there should be a bill saying bills should not exceed 300 pages, they must be read by all representatives before passage and to fail to do so is an ethics breach.

We in the hinterlands already know it is unethical, but like so many other common sense things, it is an alien concept in DC.

A while back, we played at ... (Below threshold)
Mycroft:

A while back, we played at a mock government. The first bill that passed the "senate" was a little one. It simply stated that all bills had to be written to be readable at a 10th grade reading level.

Which certainly rules out anything 1000 pages long...

Perhaps a compromise? If t... (Below threshold)
James H:

Perhaps a compromise? If the bill must be read and it's 1,000 pages long, why not elect the same kids who read the Harry Potter books all the way through?

Keeping in mind that ANY le... (Below threshold)
codekeyguy:

Keeping in mind that ANY legislation is SPECIAL INTEREST LEGISLATION (that is to tkae care of some favored block of contributors) it NEEDS beaucoup pages to bury the pork, and make it SOUND that it favors all, and not just a few.
Conyers doesn't have to read it; he knows that HIS pet project is there, and THAT is what he is voting for.
"I AM NOT A CYNIC"!!!

David D,You posted a... (Below threshold)
codekeyguy:

David D,
You posted as I was writing. I didn't intend to "steal your points", but great minds do think alike!!!

Walker is a first time post... (Below threshold)
Henry Rhea:

Walker is a first time poster, and I'm a first time commenter, here. Seems like kismet! :)

Question: Since every member of Congress has to take an oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution, wouldn't it then be an act of perjury for any of them to vote for a bill that he or she can not understand?

After all, if they do not understand it, how can they possibly know if it is in anyway unconstitional or not?

Conyers is simply bolsterin... (Below threshold)
Hank:

Conyers is simply bolstering his "I know nothing" excuse in case he gets asked about his wife Monica's corruption/bribery charges.

More seriously, what is it with Dems lately?
Conyers, Waxman, Obama, all not knowing about the very bills they either sponsored or want passed. The only one who seems to know what's going on is Murtha and he isn't talking.

Henry,Welcome. Yo... (Below threshold)
Matt:

Henry,

Welcome. You are assuming the congresscritters care if any legislation is constitutional or not. Mostly it is considered constitutional if the Supreme Court doesn't rule otherwise.

Also, you are assuming that the congresscritters gave a flip about their oath of office or had any intent of honoring it.

I wonder if Mr. Conyer's co... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

I wonder if Mr. Conyer's conducts his personal affairs in such a lax manner.

Welcome, Walker. Go... (Below threshold)
Grace:

Welcome, Walker.
Good first posting.
It is amazing to me that Conyers would ever say such a thing even if he believes it. It only confirms how completely, radically out of touch the D.C. bubble is. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours is so imbedded in the system, there seems little hope of real change unless all congress and senate members with experience are booted out. That would toss some good people, but sometimes a clean slate is best. I can only dream....

"The bills are too big even... (Below threshold)
xiphos:

"The bills are too big even for the smartest people in the room like Conyers."

Love the sarcasm.....excellent post!

So apparently Conyers ca... (Below threshold)
J.R.:

So apparently Conyers can judge a book by its cover! He probably thinks 1984 is a history book.

The nerve of us sheople expecting our representatives to know what they are voting on!

Codekeyguy,I think w... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

Codekeyguy,
I think we pretty much ALL agree on this. What is kind of insulting is Conyer's flippancy and the veiled implication of him being unaccountable to the larger national interest.

I would have thought the Pe... (Below threshold)
914:

I would have thought the People He represents voted for Him to know what the hell Hes doing?

They didnt vote for a bunch of bought and paid for thug lawyers to scam money from the system and decide what needs to be done.

If the job is too big for this dunce He should resign... Or at least admit Hes only qualified to be a community organizer.

Maybe you should read it be... (Below threshold)
Steve:

Maybe you should read it because THAT IS YOUR JOB

I mean, asking someone in the congress to bother to undertsand what they are voting on - actually reading and understanding it? Its a bit far fetched to imagine them doing that.

Bo wonder the countries going to the dogs if this is the calibre of elected officials.

Kathy you have a real great... (Below threshold)
T Walker:

Kathy you have a real great idea, about drafting a bill that says bills should only be about 300 pages.

The only problem with that is that that bill would likely be 1000+ pages.

Hi Matt. Thanks for the we... (Below threshold)
Henry Rhea:

Hi Matt. Thanks for the welcome.

No, I'm not assuming that the "congress critters" care whether a piece of legislation is Constitional or not. I'm certain that a vastly significant number do not. Nor am I assuming that they give a flip about their oath of office. They obviously do not or they wouldn't so consistently and sometimes blatantly perjur themselves by violating it.

They will none of them ever care about either of these issues, constitutionality and their oaths of office, so long as we do not indicate forcefully to them that we do. Perjury in their oath of office is and should ought to be grounds for dismissal from office and incarceration. If we can't make that happen, we and our Constitution with us are lost. And we all need to understand that.

Exactly why we should never... (Below threshold)
Pat:

Exactly why we should never rush these things through in the type of "emergency" "do it now or the world will end" way that everything has been done since O has been elected. Slow down. Go THROUGH COMMITTEE and plan for full debate, next year, or the year after. This type of emergency push makes us all suspicious, and rightly so.

Welcome Walker!... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

Welcome Walker!

I can imagine what the foun... (Below threshold)
6Kings:

I can imagine what the founding father would be thinking if congress people had abdicated their responsibility this brazenly. WTF?!! They get paid to write bills that are SUPPOSED to be beneficial to the country AND follow the Constitution. Now the whole process is skewed to personal gain only. The pillars of the country are corroded to the point of failure thanks to these imbeciles. Obama's administration may be the wrecking ball that brings this whole charade down for good.

Oops, I meant ".. brings th... (Below threshold)
6Kings:

Oops, I meant ".. brings this whole facade down.."

Thanks to Grace and Oyster ... (Below threshold)
T Walker:

Thanks to Grace and Oyster (love the name) who have welcomed me today!

Interesting how dregs like ... (Below threshold)
Michael:

Interesting how dregs like Rob and hyperbolist are nowehere to be seen here. Cat got their tongue?

I suggest that all Congress... (Below threshold)
John Hansen:

I suggest that all Congressional bills should be subject to a 100 page limit. If you can't say it in 100 pages what good is the bill.

Welcome to electric chao... (Below threshold)
RFA:

Welcome to electric chaos Walker.
Why the Demoncrat party still thinks that idiot Conyers or his crooked wife should still be anywhere near Congress or City Hall is totally unbelievable. Are the voters in their districts that corrupt, too?

James H comes up with many ... (Below threshold)

James H comes up with many great solutions (the first comment) but all involve making the bureaucracy even bigger and more complicated. Good Old Ockham's Razor strikes: Why not just give the ELECTED officials time to read and understand the legislation? Or even more to the point, what the H&%l do we need 1000 page bills for in the first place! :)

Maybe all the federal bills... (Below threshold)
marybel:

Maybe all the federal bills should be in large red block letters, like in the Dick and Jane books. Please make sure there are no pesky footnotes...WHAT are those???

Heaven knows the bills need to be dumbed down so the dumb, really stupid, senators can possibly make sense of them. This is soo sad.

I think we are in really deep doo-doo.

One must also be able to re... (Below threshold)
Glenn Cassel AMH1(AW) USN Retired:

One must also be able to read and comprehend what is being read. Most of the congress and I include both houses seem to be lacking in that most basic skill. Reading comprehension is something most of us learned in the primary grades when in elementary/grammar school.
The operative question is........What in blazes happened to these so called representatives of the people?

As smart as we all think we... (Below threshold)
Commoner:

As smart as we all think we are, there is no sense in 1000-page bills in 'the People's house'. 100 years ago, the most controversial law was the Sherman anti-trust bill. It was 1/2 a page--2 paragraphs! If 'the people' can't understand a bill, how do they question their legislators and keep them accountable for their votes? They can't--so it's just more politics as usual. Simplify, please!

Make Congress read what the... (Below threshold)
Alan:

Make Congress read what they pass -- lobby to make them pass the "Read The Bills Act" at http://www.downsizedc.org/etp/campaigns/27 :

  • Each bill, and every amendment, must be read in its entirety before a quorum in both the House and Senate.

  • Every member of the House and Senate who plans to vote in the affirmative - to vote for tax increases, for spending bills, for the retention or creation of programs, in support of laws and regulations - must sign a sworn affidavit, under penalty of perjury, that he or she has attentively either personally read, or heard read, the complete bill to be voted on.
  • Every old law coming up for renewal under the sunset provisions must also be read according to the same rules that apply to new bills.
  • Every bill to be voted on must be published on the Internet at least 7 days before a vote, and Congress must give public notice of the date when a vote will be held on that bill.
  • Passage of a bill that does not abide by these provisions will render the measure null and void, and establish grounds for the law to be challenged in court.
  • Congress cannot waive these requirements.

The effects of these provisions will be profound . . .

  • Congress will have to slow down. This means the pace of government growth will also slow.

  • Bills will shrink, be less complicated, and contain fewer subjects, so that Congress will be able to endure hearing them read.
  • Fewer bad proposals will be passed due to "log-rolling."
  • No more secret clauses will be inserted into bills at the last moment.
  • Government should shrink as old laws reach their sunset date, and have to be read for the first time before they can be renewed.

A good discussion of the merits and demerits of such a bill is at http://www.downsizedc.org/blog/detailed-criticism-of-the-read-the-bills-act-a-response

Alan, this is one of the mo... (Below threshold)
Henry Rhea:

Alan, this is one of the most sensible proposals for legislation I think that I've ever seen! Thanks for posting it. I'm going to check out your links.

Back to addressing John Conyers statement, though, I think that we (myself and probably a majority if not all posting here) were a bit hasty in assuming that Conyers is still in support of the Health Care Bill currently under consideration. Subsequent revelations about what he said in that Press Club Speech as well as a visit to his own official website indicate that in fact he is not in support of this bill. He has in fact submitted his own Health Care Bill, HR 676. You can check it out on his website here: http://conyers.house.gov/

Maybe his is easier to read and understand is why they are pushing the other, HR1200. His is a bit too forthcoming, as in what his site says about who would be eligible under his plan: "Every person living or visiting in the United States and the U.S. Territories would receive a United States National Health Insurance Card and ID number once they enroll at the appropriate location."

He wants us to foot the bill for health care for the whole damn world, if they can just get inside American territory!

I wonder if the plan is to get everyone up in arms over an unreadable bill so that they will be relieved enough to pass another in lieu of it, and sneak in Conyers in its stead, or perhaps yet another, HR1200. Conyers bill has 78 co-sponsers, and that's a significant amount of support. HR3200, the bill being considered right now, has only 7 co-sponsers, while HR1200, introduced by Rep. McDermott, D. Wa., has 7 co-sponsers besides himself.

Whoops. I screwed up. I s... (Below threshold)
Henry Rhea:

Whoops. I screwed up. I said "Maybe his is easier to read and understand is why they are pushing the other, HR1200." That should have been HR3200. There is yet a third Health Care bill that is designated HR1200, but the massive and virtually unreadable bill currently being debated is H#3200.

He has a law degree - and h... (Below threshold)
sharon zielsdorf:

He has a law degree - and he needs TWO ADDITIONAL lawyers to understand a bill after he reads it. What kind of lawyer is/was he?? Also, if he doesn't want to do his whole job for $177,000 a year, plus all the perks, perhaps he should take a pay cut, to say $25,000. or step down entirely.




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