Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hey Congress: Read The Bills! Cut the Pork!


By: Heidi Moseley, THL Contributor

Our Founding Fathers kept the language of the Constitution and America's first laws simple. They wrote in a straightforward way that allowed all who read the Constitution and subsequent laws to know exactly what their rights and freedoms were.

Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William Johnson in 1823, wrote “Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense.” The American people actually lived by common sense back then, even some politicians.

It's still possible to follow their example today, regardless of America's 21st century size and scope. The Federal Highway Act of 1956 was only two sheets of paper. The bill was strictly about building the interstate highway system that would traverse the entire United States. But since then something changed in how our elected officials saw legislation.

Our legislative bills are now full of pet projects and campaign payoffs. Bills are now 1,000+ pages long. We should expect the people in Washington- who work for us- to read legislation BEFORE they sign it. If Congress wrote bills that were concise and free from pork, it would be feasible for representatives to read and understand what they were voting for.

As Mr. John Conyers (D-MI) so eloquently put it during his speech at a National Press Club luncheon “I love these members, they get up and say, ‘Read the bill.’ 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?”

Isn’t Mr. Conyers himself a lawyer? So would that be three lawyers total? Steny Hoyer (D-MD) laughed at the idea of actually reading a bill before he passed it. "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," he is quoted as saying. How can they pass a bill that isn’t fully written and which the House and Senate have not read?

The Cap and Trade Bill that unfortunately passed the House had place markers in it for addendums to be inserted at a later date. Not only had they not read the bill before voting on it, they didn't even finish writing the bill before passing it! Uncompleted though it was, it still weighed in at over one thousand pages long.

How do we get back to what our Founding Fathers intended for this country? First of all, get involved right now. Call your representatives, go to town hall meetings, go to rallies, or join a group. Next, we need to get people in the House and Senate who will be statesmen and represent the American people in 2010.

Learn as much as you can about the candidates running in the primaries first; then work on getting the best party choice elected. Tell your friends and colleagues about candidates who stand for your values. Once we get those people in, we need to hold them to task.

For too long, “We The People” were asleep at the wheel. We allowed our representatives to play party politics instead of doing their job of representing their constituents. They no longer use common sense or the Constitution when they write bills. It’s our job to make sure the government is of the people, by the people, and FOR the people.

“If every member pledged to not vote for it if they hadn't read it in its entirety, I think we would have very few votes," Steny Hoyer said at his weekly news conference. You're quick Mr. Hoyer- that's kind of the point!