How fast can you read? Can you read 2,232 pages in only 18 hours? That would be 124 pages per hour for 18 hours without a break and with complete comprehension.
If you can’t, then you’re like most members of Congress and nearly every other human being. A new piece of legislation would require members have enough time to actually fully look over the bills they vote on.
Last week’s 2,232-page omnibus bill to fund the government was literally impossible to both fully read and comprehend in the limited time between release and vote.
The bill, largely written in secret and by congressional leadership, was only publicly released and given to most members about 18 hours before the vote. Even if you could read one page per minute, it would have taken about 37 hours to read the whole thing.
What the bill does
The Review Every Act Diligently In Total (READ IT) Act aims to allow members to fully review all legislation before votes.
It would institute a new rule in the official House rules, that anything receiving a vote must have been publicly available in electronic form for a number of minutes that’s double the number of pages.
For example, last week’s 2,232 page omnibus bill would have to have been publicly available on the internet for a minimum of about 3.1 days.
Some may argue that even this would not have been enough — it wouldn’t be enough time for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to calculate an estimate for how much a bill’s provisions would cost, for example. But it’s a start.
(A rule in a similar vein already technically exists, but it was waived for last week’s omnibus vote. It’s not clear whether this bill, if enacted, couldn’t also be waived.)
Introduced by Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA5), it was numbered as House Resolution 801.
What supporters say
Supporters argue the legislation prevents the near-darkness under which politicians must decide whether to approve or vote down what are often extremely consequential pieces of legislation.
“Our Founding Fathers created a representative democracy,” House lead sponsor Garrett said in a press release. “It follows that elected legislators can’t adequately represent their constituents’ views if their representatives don’t have the chance to weigh in on a bill or let alone an opportunity to review it.”
“This must stop. There should never again be a, ‘pass it to find out what’s in it moment,’” Garrett continued, referring to an infamous 2010 quote from then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. (Although the quote, a poorly phrased attempt to describe the benefits of Obamacare, was actually inaccurate if taken out of context, since the text of that legislation had been publicly available for months by the time of the actual vote.)
Odds of passage
GovTrack Insider was unable to locate any outright statements of opposition to Garrett’s READ IT Act. However, the bill has not yet attracted any House cosponsors, although as of this writing it has only been introduced for a few days.
It awaits a possible vote in the House Rules Committee.