DownsizeDC.org
December 28, 2007
Speed-Readers
By James Wilson
Today's Downsizer-Dispatch . . . MEDIA NOTICE: Jim Babka is on the radio today. Look below the signature for listening information.

TODAY'S SUBJECT: The Read the Bills Act

On Sunday, December 16, members of Congress were handed a 3,417-page spending bill, H.R. 2764 - or was it a 1,443-page bill? It depends on what you include. The shorter version is found at the legislative information website thomas.loc.gov, but then there are attached committee reports, in which we find most "earmarks," or specific designations for the money Congress authorized in the bill.

And it appears these committee reports have the force of law. According to analyst Brian M. Riedl, "The appropriations bills' texts contain several sections stating that a certain amount of a program's budget 'shall be available for projects and in the amounts specified in the explanatory statement described in section....; This may effectively make many of the earmarks in the conference reports legally binding." Source: Heritage Foundation

That means the larger figure is more accurate. In any case, Congress has the responsibility to comb through both the bill and the earmarks to prevent waste.

Which Congress did not do. The House passed the bill within 24 hours (and passed an amended version two days later.) The Senate passed it Tuesday evening. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina objected to the rush, leading Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois to reply that the bill had been posted on the Internet for two whole days!

“For 46 hours and 8 minutes -- the Senator from South Carolina has had an opportunity to go to the Internet and see this bill in its entirety, with his staff, and to read every page… Please, do not come to the floor and suggest that this is a mystery bill which no one has seen. For two days, this has been posted on the Internet. You have had your chance. Every Senator has had a chance." - Sen. Dick Durbin

We're not sure this is even accurate, because we haven't found the 3,417-page version on the Internet. In any case, DeMint did the math: this would mean reading 1 1/4 pages of the bill every minute of those 46 hours before the debate. Members of the House would have had to read 2 1/2 pages every minute before their vote, with no breaks for sleeping, eating, bathroom, etc.  Source: DeMint's blog

Furthermore, by the time the Senate got to H.R. 2764, they had already passed 11 other bills that week. They even found time for such urgent matters as congratulating Appalachian State's football team and Wake Forest's soccer team. Indeed, by the time Congress adjourned Wednesday, the Senate passed 29 bills and 2,930 pages of legislation (not including additional reports and earmarks). And the House passed 33 bills amounting to 3,113 pages. (You can see the list of bills at the end of this Dispatch.)

Apparently, Durbin assumes all members of Congress are expert speed-readers.

We at Downsize DC doubt this is so. That's why our Read the Bills Act would require all bills to be read before a quorum in Congress, and be posted on the Internet for seven full days before final passage. Some say this is not practical, but what is so practical about elected representatives not knowing the content of the bills they pass? How well has that worked for us?

Actually, the Read the Bills Act is very practical, because it will bring sunshine on bad policy and wasteful spending. And it will force Congress to write shorter bills, pass fewer bills, and spend less of our money.

Tell your Represenative and Senators that you don't believe they read H.R. 2764, because they simply didn't have the time. Tell them they have a duty to their constituents to oppose any bill they haven't read. And urge them to introduce the Read the Bills Act. You can do so here.

This week, we welcome two new members of the Read the Bills Act coalition. The Coalition is an opportunity for you to spread the word about the Read the Bills Act on your website or blog, and we will in turn announce your site here and link to it at our own blog. You can learn more and join here.

The new members are:

Studio-Owens
Sporty Blog

Thank you for being a DC Downsizer.

James Wilson
Assistant to the President
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

PS: Jim Babka will be on the Jerry Hughes show today. Please tune in,call in, and/or send an email question or comment. This show is a great opportunity to spread the DC Downsizer message. Please support this show. Help us create "buzz!" You can do so by listening, but especially by calling-in or sending an email.

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Click Winamp or Windows Media Playerm, as appropriate. *** The following are the bills the House and Senate passed last week. 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. HOUSE 33 bills, 3113 pages Providing for the conveyance of a small parcel of National Forest System land in the George Washington National Forest in Alleghany County, Virginia: H.R. 3454, to provide for the conveyance of a small parcel of National Forest System land in the George Washington National Forest in Alleghany County, Virginia, that contains the cemetery of the Central Advent Christian Church and an adjoining tract of land located between the cemetery and road boundaries; 4 pages Amending the Florida National Forest Land Management Act of 2003 to authorize the conveyance of an additional tract of National Forest System land under that Act: H.R. 1374, to amend the Florida National Forest Land Management Act of 2003 to authorize the conveyance of an additional tract of National Forest System land under that Act; 4 pages Lance Corporal Dennis James Veater Post Office Designation Act: H.R. 3911, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 95 Church Street in Jessup, Pennsylvania, as the ``Lance Corporal Dennis James Veater Post Office''; 1 page Paul E. Gillmor Post Office Building Designation Act: S. 2174, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 175 South Monroe Street in Tiffin, Ohio, as the ``Paul E. Gillmor Post Office Building''--clearing the measure for the President; 1 page Dan Miller Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 4342, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 824 Manatee Avenue West in Bradenton, Florida, as the ``Dan Miller Post Office Building''; 1 page Dock M. Brown Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 4210, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 401 Washington Avenue in Weldon, North Carolina, as the ``Dock M. Brown Post Office Building''; 1 page Federal Food Donation Act of 2007: H.R. 4220, amended, to encourage the donation of excess food to nonprofit organizations that provide assistance to food-insecure people in the United States in contracts entered into by executive agencies for the provision, service, or sale of food; 6 pages Local Preparedness Acquisition Act: H.R. 3179, to amend title 40, United States Code, to authorize the use of Federal supply schedules for the acquisition of law enforcement, security, and certain other related items by State and local governments; 4 pages Awarding a congressional gold medal to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in recognition of her courageous and unwavering commitment to peace, nonviolence, human rights, and democracy in Burma: H.R. 4286, to award a congressional gold medal to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in recognition of her courageous and unwavering commitment to peace, nonviolence, human rights, and democracy in Burma, by a \2/3\ yea-and-nay vote of 400 yeas with none voting ``nay'', Roll No. 1170; 6 pages Renaming the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development as the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: S. 2484, to rename the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development as the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development--clearing the measure for the President; 7 pages Granting the consent of Congress to the International Emergency Management Assistance Memorandum of Understanding: S.J. Res. 13, to grant the consent of Congress to the International Emergency Management Assistance Memorandum of Understanding--clearing the measure for the President; 6 pages Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act of 2007: H.R. 3793, amended, to amend title 37, United States D1650Code, to require the Secretary of Defense to continue to pay to a member of the Armed Forces who is retired or separated from the Armed Forces due to a combat-related injury certain bonuses that the member was entitled to before the retirement or separation and would continue to be entitled to if the member was not retired or separated, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 405 yeas with none voting ``nay'', Roll No. 1176. 10 pages Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007: The House agreed to the Senate amendment to the House amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 6, to move the United States toward greater energy independence and security, to increase the production of clean renewable fuels, to protect consumers, to increase the efficiency of products, buildings, and vehicles, to promote research on and deploy greenhouse gas capture and storage options, and to improve the energy performance of the Federal Government, by a yea-and-nay vote of 314 yeas to 100 nays, Roll No. 1177. 1038 pages Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007: S. 2271, to authorize State and local governments to divest assets in companies that conduct business operations in Sudan and to prohibit United States Government contracts with such companies, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 411 yeas with none voting ``nay'', Roll No. 1179--clearing the measure for the President; 8 pages Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007: Agreed to the Senate amendment to H.R. 2761, to extend the Terrorism Insurance Program of the Department of the Treasury, by a yea-and-nay vote of 360 yeas to 53 nays, Roll No. 1178--clearing the measure for the President; 86 pages Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007: Agreed to the Senate amendment to H.R. 3648, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to exclude discharges of indebtedness on principal residences from gross income--clearing the measure for the President; 10 pages Providing for the concurrence by the House in the Senate amendments to H.R. 3997, with an amendment: H. Res. 884, providing for the concurrence by the House in the Senate amendments to H.R. 3997, with an amendment, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 411 yeas with none voting ``nay'', Roll No. 1181; 114 pages OPEN Government Act of 2007: S. 2488, to promote accessibility, accountability, and openness in Government by strengthening section 552 of title 5, United States Code (commonly referred to as the Freedom of Information Act)--clearing the measure for the President; 8 pages U.S. Capitol Police and Library of Congress Police Merger Implementation Act of 2007: Agreed to the Senate amendment to H.R. 3690, to provide for the transfer of the Library of Congress police to the United States Capitol Police, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 413 yeas with none voting ``nay'', Roll No. 1182 --clearing the measure for the President. 26 pages Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007: S. 2499, to amend titles XVIII, XIX, and XXI of the Social Security Act to extend provisions under the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP programs, by a \2/3\ yea-and-nay vote of 411 yeas to 3 nays, Roll No. 1184--clearing the measure for the President; 24 pages Authorizing a major medical facility project to modernize inpatient wards at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia: S. 1396, to authorize a major medical facility project to modernize inpatient wards at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia--clearing the measure for the President; 1 page Officer Jeremy Todd Charron Post Office Designation Act: S. 1896, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 11 Central Street in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, as the ``Officer Jeremy Todd Charron Post Office''--clearing the measure for the President; 1 page Emergency and Disaster Assistance Fraud Penalty Enhancement Act of 2007: S. 863, to amend title 18, United States Code, with respect to fraud in connection with major disaster or emergency funds--clearing the measure for the President; 3 pages Court Security Improvement Act of 2007: Agreed to the Senate amendment to H.R. 660, to amend title 18, United States Code, to protect judges, prosecutors, witnesses, victims, and their family members--clearing the measure for the President; 26 pages Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2007: H.R. 1216, amended, to direct the Secretary of Transportation to issue regulations to reduce the incidence of child injury and death occurring inside or outside of light motor vehicles; 10 pages Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act: H.R. 4040, amended, to establish consumer product safety standards and other safety requirements for children's products and to reauthorize and modernize the Consumer Product Safety Commission, by a \2/3\ yea-and-nay vote of 407 yeas with none voting ``nay'', Roll No. 1185; 64 pages Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2007: Agreed to the Senate amendment to H.R. 3996, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend certain expiring provisions, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 352 yeas to 64 nays, Roll No. 1183--clearing the measure for the President. 108 pages Making further continuing appropriations for the fiscal year 2008: The House agreed to H.J. Res. 72, making further continuing appropriations for the fiscal year 2008, by voice vote. 4 pages Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008: The House agreed to the Senate amendment to the House amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 2764, making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, by a yea-and-nay vote of 272 yeas to 142 nays, Roll No. 1186. 1443 pages Amending the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to clarify the term of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue: The House agreed by unanimous consent to S. 2436, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to clarify the term of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue--clearing the measure for the President. 2 pages Amending the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to make technical corrections: The House agreed to discharge from committee and pass H.R. 4839, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to make technical corrections. 54 pages Chimp Haven is Home Act: The House agreed to discharge from committee and pass S. 1916, to amend the Public Health Service Act to modify the program for the sanctuary system for surplus chimpanzees by terminating the authority for the removal of chimpanzees from the system for research purposes--clearing the measure for the President. 2 pages NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007: The House agreed by unanimous consent to agree to the Senate amendment to H.R. 2640, to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System--clearing the measure for the President. 30 pages SENATE 29 bills, 1930 pages Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act: Senate passed S. 274, to amend chapter 23 of title 5, United States Code, to clarify the disclosures of information protected from prohibited personnel practices, require a statement in nondisclosure policies, forms, and agreements that such policies, forms, and agreements conform with certain disclosure protections, provide certain authority for the Special Counsel. 24 pages Coin Dispensing Capability Requirements: Senate passed H.R. 3703, to amend section 5112(p)(1)(A) of title 31, United States Code, to allow an exception from the $1 coin dispensing capability requirement for certain vending machines, clearing the measure for the President. 4 pages Do-Not-Call Registry fees: Senate passed S. 781, to extend the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to collect Do-Not-Call Registry fees to fiscal years after fiscal year 2007, after agreeing to the committee amendment in the nature of a substitute. 9 pages Do-Not-Call Improvement Act: Senate passed S. 2096, to amend the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act to eliminate the automatic removal of telephone numbers registered on the Federal ``do-not-call'' registry. 4 pages Court Security Improvement Act: Committee on the Judiciary was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 660, to amend title 18, United States Code, to protect judges, prosecutors, witnesses, victims, and their family members, and the bill was then passed, 29 pages U.S. Capitol Police and Library of Congress Police Merger Implementation Act: Senate passed H.R. 3690, to provide for the transfer of the Library of Congress police to the United States Capitol Police, 24 pages Medicare/Medicaid/SCHIP Programs Extension: Senate passed S. 2499, to amend titles XVIII, XIX, and XXI of the Social Security Act to extend provisions under the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP programs. 63 pages Essential Air Service Subsidies Extension: Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation was discharged from further consideration of S. 2260, to extend the existing provisions regarding the eligibility for essential air service subsidies through fiscal year 2008, and the bill was then passed. 4 pages Ernest Childers Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic: Committee on Veterans' Affairs was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 366, to designate the Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as the ``Ernest Childers Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic'', and the bill was then passed, clearing the measure for the President. 1 pages Internal Revenue Commissioner: Senate passed S. 2436, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to clarify the term of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. 4 pages Child Soldiers Accountability Act: Senate passed S. 2135, to prohibit the recruitment or use of child soldiers, to designate persons who recruit or use child soldiers as inadmissible aliens, to allow the deportation of persons who recruit or use child soldiers. 8 pages Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act (became "Consolidated Appropriations Act") --House Message: By 76 yeas to 17 nays, 1 voting present (Vote No. 441), Senate concurred in House amendment No. 1 to the Senate amendment to the text of H.R. 2764, making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008. 1443 pages. Integrated Deepwater Program Reform Act: Senate passed S. 924, to strengthen the United States Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater Program; 27 pages Military Reservist and Veteran Small Business Reauthorization and Opportunity Act: Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 4253, to improve and expand small business assistance programs for veterans of the armed forces and military reservists, and the bill was then passed, after striking all after the enacting clause and inserting in lieu thereof, the text of S. 1784, Senate companion measure, as amended. 27 pages NICS Improvement Amendments Act: Committee on the Judiciary was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 2640, to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and the bill was then passed; 36 pages Block Burmese JADE (Junta's Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act: Committee on Foreign Relations was discharged from further consideration 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, to promote a coordinated international effort to restore civilian democratic rule to Burma, and the bill was then passed, 22 pages Continuing Appropriations: Senate agreed to H.J. Res. 72, making further continuing appropriations for the fiscal year 2008, clearing the measure for the President. 4 pages Pension Protection Act Technical Correction: Senate passed S. 1974, to make technical corrections related to the Pension Protection Act of 2006, 64 pages Captain Jonathan D. Grassbaugh Post Office: Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs was discharged from further consideration of S. 2478, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 59 Colby Corner in East Hampstead, New Hampshire, as the ``Captain Jonathan D. Grassbaugh Post Office'', and the bill was then passed. 1 pages John Sidney `Sid' Flowers Post Office Building: Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 3470, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 744 West Oglethorpe Highway in Hinesville, Georgia, as the ``John Sidney `Sid' Flowers Post Office Building'', and the bill was then passed, clearing the measure for the President. 4 pages Beatrice E. Watson Post Office Building: Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 3569, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 16731 Santa Ana Avenue in Fontana, California, as the ``Beatrice E. Watson Post Office Building'', and the bill was then passed, clearing the measure for the President. 1 page Marine Corps Corporal Steven P. Gill Post Office Building: Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 3974, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 797 Sam Bass Road in Round Rock, Texas, as the ``Marine Corps Corporal Steven P. Gill Post Office Building'', and the bill was then passed, clearing the measure for the President. 1 page Turrill Post Office Building: Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 4009, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 567 West Nepessing Street in Lapeer, Michigan, as the ``Turrill Post Office Building'', and the bill was then passed, clearing the measure for the President. 1 page George Howard, Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse: Committee on Environment and Public Works was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 2011, to designate the Federal building and United States courthouse located at 100 East 8th Avenue in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, as the ``George Howard, Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse'', and the bill was then passed, clearing the measure for the President. 1 page Neal Smith Federal Building: Committee on Environment and Public Works was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 1045, to designate the Federal building located at 210 Walnut Street in Des Moines, Iowa, as the ``Neal Smith Federal Building'', and the bill was then passed, clearing the measure for the President. 1 page Office of Compliance Employees: Senate passed H.R. 3571, to amend the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 to permit individuals who have served as employees of the Office of Compliance to serve as Executive Director, Deputy Executive Director, or General Counsel of the Office, and to permit individuals appointed to such positions to serve one additional term, clearing the measure for the President. 4 pages Commission on the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade Act: Committee on the Judiciary was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 3432, to establish the Commission on the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and the bill was then passed 4 pages Technical Corrections: Senate passed H.R. 4839, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to make technical corrections, clearing the measure for the President. 53 pages Defenders of Freedom Tax Relief Act: Senate concurred in the amendment of the House to the amendment of the Senate to H.R. 3997, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide tax relief and protections for military personnel, 60 pages
Filed under Downsizer Dispatch, RTBA
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