DownsizeDC.org
August 12, 2008
Pretending to be Experts
By James Wilson
July was a busy month in Congress, as the honorable servants of the people rushed to get bills passed before their five-week vacation. Through August 1, the Senate passed 39 bills totaling 2,022 pages, while the House passed 92 bills and 2,267 pages. Fairly "impressive," considering that the Senate was in session for 20 days and the House for just 15 during the month.

Many of these bills were brief, and were concerned with veterans affairs, federal buildings, and other topics most of us agree are necessary and proper. But Congress also went beyond the Constitution's limits and passed bills seeking to regulate our lives and manage the economy. Congress passed bills relating to:


* health care
* tobacco
* the safety of children's products
* human rights in Burma
* home foreclosures
* higher education
* drugs for animals
* boating emissions and safety
* railroad safety
* digital television
* aviation
* highway and bridge inspections
* third-world diseases
* water usage
* alleged pay discrimination
* handicapped accessibility on buses
* sharks
* maritime pollution
* pensions
* municipal building codes
* fish stocks
* regional development
* training for state and local prosecutors

(A list of bills, including descriptions and number of pages, can be found below my signature.)

Where do members of Congress find the time to learn about all these issues? Where do they find the time to read all these bills? Simply put, they don't. As we wrote in Thurday's Dispatch, "there is no way that any finite human can know enough to have worthy opinions on more than a few subjects. Yet the politicians pretend they're Supermen and Superwomen who know enough to make vast decisions on a wide range of issues, and to force everyone else to abide by their supposed wisdom."

We also wrote that, in contrast, the market "takes advantage of the decentralized knowledge of hundreds of millions of people. No one knows everything, or even very much about most things, but most people know many things about small but important areas of life. It is this decentralized knowledge that drives the world."

Should Congress spend money on something it knows very little about? Should it pass laws regulating industries it doesn't understand? When they do so, they attract lobbyists looking for breaks and handouts, while the rest of us must comply with the laws and pay the taxes.

We at DownsizeDC.org can't force members of Congress to become experts on everything. That would be impossible even if it was desirable. But we can at least force Congress to read the bills before they are passed, by forcing them to introduce and pass the Read the Bills Act.

If bills had to be read before a quorum in Congress, Congress wouldn't have time to pass as many bills as they do now. Priorities would have to be established. But they still would have plenty of time to read and pass every necessary bill authorized by Article I, section 8 of the Constitution. They'd have time to exercise legitimate federal powers such as national defense. They'd even have time to become well-informed on the issues related to their powers. But they wouldn't have time to meddle in every sector of the economy, our private lives, and foreign nations. Members of Congress are not, and can not be, experts on everything. The Read the Bills Act prevents them from even pretending to be.

Please tell Congress to pass the Read the Bills Act. In your personal message, tell them you know they didn't read the 2000+ pages of bills they passed last month. Tell them that if they are uninformed on an issue and haven't read the bill, they shouldn't pass it. You can send your message here.

Also, please consider making a contribution to further our work. You can do so here.

Thank-you for being part of the growing Downsize DC Army.

James Wilson
Assistant to the President
DownsizeDC.org

The following are the bills the House and Senate passed in July and through August 1. The bills were passed by voice vote except where indicated. Roll call votes for the House are found here, and for the Senate here. The descriptions of bills are essentially taken verbatim from the Congressional Record Daily Digest. Page numbers of bills are based on the pdf display of the latest version from the Government Printing Office.

Shark Conservation Act of 2008: H.R. 5741, amended, to amend the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to improve the conservation of sharks; 5 pages

Preserve America and Save America's Treasures Act: H.R. 3981, amended, to authorize the Preserve America Program and Save America's Treasures Program, by a \2/3\ yea-and-nay vote of 360 yeas to 23 nays, Roll No. 471; 16 pages

Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center Lease Act: H.R. 1423, amended, to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to lease a portion of a visitor center to be constructed outside the boundary of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Porter County, Indiana, by a \2/3\ yea-and-nay vote of 376 yeas to 11 nays, Roll No. 472; 6 pages

Amending the Dayton Aviation Heritage Preservation Act of 1992 to add sites to the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park: H.R. 4199, amended, to amend the Dayton Aviation Heritage Preservation Act of 1992 to add sites to the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, by a \2/3\ yea-and-nay vote of 368 yeas to 18 nays, Roll No. 473; 5 pages

Maritime Pollution Prevention Act of 2008: Agreed to the Senate amendment to H.R. 802, to amend the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships to implement MARPOL Annex VI--clearing the measure for the President; 6 pages

Cpl. John P. Sigsbee Post Office Designation Act: H.R. 5975, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 101 West Main Street in Waterville, New York, as the ``Cpl. John P. Sigsbee Post Office''; 1 page

Sergeant Paul Saylor Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 6092, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 101 Tallapoosa Street in Bremen, Georgia, as the ``Sergeant Paul Saylor Post Office Building''. 1 page

Pension Protection Technical Corrections Act of 2008: H.R. 6382, to make technical corrections related to the Pension Protection Act of 2006; 68 pages

Federal Ocean Acidification Research And Monitoring Act of 2008: H.R. 4174, amended, to establish an interagency committee to develop an ocean acidification research and monitoring plan and to establish an ocean acidification program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; 18 pages

Community Building Code Administration Grant Act of 2008: H.R. 4461, amended, to promote and enhance the operation of local building code enforcement administration across the country by establishing a competitive Federal matching grant program; 12 pages

Asset Management Improvement Act of 2008: H.R. 6216, amended, to improve the Operating Fund for public housing of the Department of Housing and Urban Development; 7 pages

Homes for Heroes Act of 2008: H.R. 3329, amended, to provide housing assistance for very low-income veterans, by a \2/3\ yea-and-nay vote of 412 yeas to 9 nays, Roll No. 478; 49 pages

America's Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008: H.R. 6184, to provide for a program for circulating quarter dollar coins that are emblematic of a national park or other national site in each State, the District of Columbia, and each territory of the United States, by a \2/3\ yea-and-nay vote of 419 yeas with none voting ``nay'', Roll No. 479; 16 pages

Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act: H.R. 5541, amended, to provide a supplemental funding source for catastrophic emergency wildland fire suppression activities on Department of the Interior and National Forest System lands and to require the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a cohesive wildland fire management strategy; 13 pages

DTV Transition Assistance Act: S. 2607, to make a technical correction to section 3009 of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005-clearing the measure for the President; 2 pages

Kenneth James Gray Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 6061, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 219 East Main Street in West Frankfort, Illinois, as the ``Kenneth James Gray Post Office Building''. 1 page

Electronic Message Preservation Act: The House passed H.R. 5811, to amend title 44, United States Code, to require preservation of certain electronic records by Federal agencies and to require a certification and reports relating to Presidential records, by a yea-and-nay vote of 286 yeas to 137 nays, Roll No. 477. 10 pages

Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail Designation Act: The House passed H.R. 1286, to amend the National Trails System Act to designate the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail, by a recorded vote of 345 ayes to 69 noes, Roll No. 484. 5 pages

Providing for certain Federal employee benefits to be continued for certain employees of the Senate Restaurants after operations of the Senate Restaurants are contracted to be performed by a private business concern: The House passed by unanimous consent S. 2967, to provide for certain Federal employee benefits to be continued for certain employees of the Senate Restaurants after operations of the Senate Restaurants are contracted to be performed by a private business concern--clearing the measure for the President. 7 pages

National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act of 2008: H.R. 5618, amended, to reauthorize and amend the National Sea Grant College Program Act; 13 pages

Clarifying the boundaries of Coastal Barrier Resources System Clam Pass Unit FL-64P: H.R. 1714, to clarify the boundaries of Coastal Barrier Resources System Clam Pass Unit FL-64P; 2 pages

Directing the Secretary of the Interior to continue stocking fish in certain lakes in the North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area: H.R. 3227, amended, to direct the Secretary of the Interior to continue stocking fish in certain lakes in the North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area; 3 pages

Bishop Ralph E. Brower Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 5506, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 369 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Jersey City, New Jersey, as the ``Bishop Ralph E. Brower Post Office Building''; 1 page

Minnie Cox Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 4010, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 100 West Percy Street in Indianola, Mississippi, as the ``Minnie Cox Post Office Building''; 1 page

Regulatory Improvement Act: Agreed to the Senate amendment to H.R. 3564, to amend title 5, United States Code, to authorize appropriations for the Administrative Conference of the United States through fiscal year 2011--clearing the measure for the President; 1 page

Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2008: H.R. 5057, amended, to reauthorize the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program; 18 pages

Criminal History Background Checks Pilot Extension Act of 2008: S. 3218, to extend the pilot program for volunteer groups to obtain criminal history background checks--clearing the measure for the President; 1 page

A Child Is Missing Alert and Recovery Center Act: H.R. 5464, to direct the Attorney General to make an annual grant to the A Child Is Missing Alert and Recovery Center to assist law enforcement agencies in the rapid recovery of missing children; 6 pages

Authorizing the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program at fiscal year 2006 levels through 2012: S. 231, to authorize the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program at fiscal year 2006 levels through 2012--clearing the measure for the President. 1 page

NASA 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act: H.R. 6455, to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; 22 pages

Timothy J. Russert Highway Designation Act: S. 3145, to designate a portion of United States Route 20A, located in Orchard Park, New York, as the ``Timothy J. Russert Highway''--clearing the measure for the President; 2 pages

Appalachian Regional Development Act Amendments: S. 496, amended, to reauthorize and improve the program authorized by the Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965; 16 pages

Amending the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to permit candidates for election for Federal office to designate an individual who will be authorized to disburse funds of the authorized campaign committees of the candidate in the event of the death of the candidate: H.R. 3032, amended, to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to permit candidates for election for Federal office to designate an individual who will be authorized to disburse funds of the authorized campaign committees of the candidate in the event of the death of the candidate; 5 pages

Extending through 2013 the authority of the Federal Election Commission to impose civil money penalties on the basis of a schedule of penalties established and published by the Commission: H.R. 6296, to extend through 2013 the authority of the Federal Election Commission to impose civil money penalties on the basis of a schedule of penalties established and published by the Commission. 2 pages

Burma Democracy Promotion Act: The House agreed by unanimous consent that the Clerk be authorized to make the changes placed at the desk in the engrossment of the House amendment to the Senate amendment to the text of H.R. 3890, to impose sanctions on officials of the State Peace and Development Council in Burma, to amend the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 to prohibit the importation of gemstones and hardwoods from Burma, and to promote a coordinated international effort to restore civilian democratic rule to Burma. 46 pages

Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009: The House passed H.R. 5959, to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2009 for intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government, the Community Management Account, and the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability 108 pages

Amending the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to designate segments of the Taunton River in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System: The House passed H.R. 415, to amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to designate segments of the Taunton River in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, by a yea-and-nay vote of 242 yeas to 175 nays, Roll No. 507. 8 pages

Filed under Downsizer Dispatch, RTBA
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