"Read the Bills Act" (PDF/print version)




112TH CONGRESS
1ST SESSION



H.R. ___________
READ THE BILLS ACT



CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY STATEMENT

        Pursuant to clause 7 of Rule XII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the following statement is submitted regarding the specific powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the accompanying bill or joint resolution.

        This bill is enacted pursuant to the power conferred by the United States Constitution upon each house of Congress by:
        (a) Article I, Section 5, Clauses 2 and 3 to determine the rules and to keep a journal of its proceedings, respectively;
        (b) Article I, Section 7, Clause 2 to ensure that bills that become law have been actually passed by, not just passed through, each house of Congress; and
        (c) Article I, Section 8, Clause 18, which authorizes Congress to make all laws that are necessary and proper for carrying into execution the rules of each house.

        The provision of this Act under which any person who is aggrieved by the enforcement of any law enacted either in violation of the rules of proceedings of either house of Congress, or by the suspension of such rules, as prescribed herein, shall have standing in a court of law, is pursuant to Article III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution.




112TH CONGRESS
1ST SESSION

H.R. ________

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Mr. ________ introduced the following bill;
which was referred to the Committee on ________.

A BILL

To require a Constitutional Authority Statement in support of every bill or resolution, the verbatim inclusion in each bill or resolution the text of any existing law amended, and, before final passage of any bill (other than a private bill) or resolution, the full verbatim reading of the text to each house of Congress called to order with a quorum physically assembled throughout, the verbatim publication of every such Bill on an official Internet web site of the Senate and the House of Representatives before final passage of any Bill in each house of Congress, prior notice of the calendar week on which the final vote is scheduled to be taken, the execution of an affidavit by every member of each house of Congress attesting that, prior to voting for passage of a bill the individual member had either listened attentively to the reading of said bill or had personally read it in its entirety; and to provide for enforcement of the printing, reading, entry, publication, recording and affidavit requirements herein.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States Congress assembled,

CONTENTS

Sec. 1. Short Title
Sec. 2. Constitutional Authority Statement
Sec. 3. Findings
Sec. 4 Text of Bill or Resolution to Set out Constitutional Authority
Sec. 5. Text of Bill or Resolution to Set out Current Law
Sec. 6. Procedures Prior to Vote on Bill or Resolution
Sec. 7. Enforcement
Sec. 8. Severability Clause




SEC. 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the "Read the Bills Act."

SEC. 2. CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY STATEMENT.

    (a) This bill is enacted pursuant to the power conferred by the United States Constitution upon each house of Congress by:
        (i) Article I, Section 5, Clauses 2 and 3 to determine the rules and to keep a journal of its proceedings, respectively;
        (ii) Article I, Section 7, Clause 2 to ensure that bills that become law have been actually passed by, not just passed through, each house of Congress; and
        (iii) Article I, Section 8, Clause 18, which authorizes Congress to make all laws that are necessary and proper for carrying into execution the rules of each house.
    (b) The provision of this Act under which any person who is aggrieved by the enforcement of any law enacted either in violation of the rules of proceedings of either house of Congress, or by the suspension of such rules, as prescribed herein, shall have standing in a court of law, is pursuant to Article III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution.

SEC. 3. FINDINGS.

    (a) The United States Constitution vests all legislative powers granted therein to the United States Congress, members of both the Senate and House of which are elected by the people to whom each member is accountable to represent the people of the State and of the House District in the exercise of each member's legislative powers.
    (b) As a government of enumerated powers, Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution obliges Congress to exercise only those legislative powers set forth in the Constitution, and Article VI of the Constitution requires of each member of Congress an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution by enacting only those laws, and making only those resolutions that are pursuant to the Constitution and not prohibited thereby.
    (c) To the end that Congress be politically and legally accountable to the people, Article I, Section 4 of the United States Constitution requires each House of Congress to keep a journal of its proceedings and from time to time publish the same.
    (d) To the end that no legislation be passed without effective representation of the people's interest by the elected members of the Congress, Article I, Section 7 of the United States Constitution states that only those Bills "which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate," and not vetoed by the President, "shall become" Laws.
    (e) According to Section I of Thomas Jefferson's 1812 Manual of Parliamentary Practice for the Use of the Senate of the United States ("Jefferson's Manual"), "nothing tended more to throw power into the hands of administration and those who acted with the majority ... than a neglect of, or departure from, the rules of proceeding [which] operated as a check and control of the actions of the majority [and] a shelter and protection to the minority."
    (f) According to Sections XXII and XL of Jefferson's Manual, it was the rule of the Senate that every bill receive three readings, two full readings by the Clerk of the Senate, and a third reading of the title of the bill only in that "every member of the Senate had a printed copy [of said bill] in his hand."
    (g) According to Sections XXIV, XXV, and XL of Jefferson's Manual, it was the rule of the House of Representatives, following the parliamentary procedure of the English House of Commons, that every bill received two full readings by the Clerk of the House, and a reading of the whole contents of the bill verbatim by the Speaker of the House before the House voted on each bill.
    (h) Under current Senate rules, the Senate has departed from its original practice of a full first and second reading of each bill, and of ensuring that each Senator has a printed or other verbatim copy of each bill before passage thereof, having by Rule XIV limited each reading of a bill to the reading of the bill's title only, unless the Senate in any case shall otherwise order.
    (i) Under current House rules, the House of Representatives has by Rule XVI (8) and Rule XVIII (5) embraced its original practice of full first and second readings of each bill, but has regularly departed from this practice by unanimous consent of the House, and has dispensed altogether its original practice of a verbatim third reading of each bill before passage, limiting such third reading to the reading of the title only, including the reading of the title only even when members of the House have no printed or other verbatim copy of a bill before passage.
    (j) Although Section 106, Title 1, United States Code, requires a bill to be made available in written form to each member of Congress before final passage Congress has by statute conferred upon itself the power, during the last six days of a session of Congress, by concurrent resolution, to vote for passage of a bill that is not in said form at the time of final passage.
    (k) As a direct consequence of the Senate and the House of Representatives departure from the salutary practice of full, verbatim readings of each bill before final passage, and further, as a direct consequence of Congress, by concurrent resolution and otherwise, having permitted certain appropriation, budget, and regulatory bills to be enacted into law without such bills being printed and presented to Congress in written form prior to final passage, Congress has: (i) imposed upon the American people excessively long bills, largely written by an unelected bureaucracy, resulting in generally incomprehensible, cumbersome, oppressive and burdensome laws, containing hidden provisions for special interests; (ii) deprived the American people and their elected Senators and Representatives of a full and fair opportunity to examine the text of said bills, and all amendments thereto, prior to passage; (iii) undermined the confidence of the American people by its failure to give adequate notice to the people before a vote is taken on said bills and their amendments in the bills; and (iv) has called into question the integrity and reliability of the legislative processes in both houses of Congress by its failure to ensure that each member of the Senate and each member of the House has, prior to passage, either listened attentively to the reading of the full text of each bill, and its amendments, or has personally read the text thereof.
    (l) Federal law currently proscribes various requirements relating to the form of bills and procedure used regarding the enactment of laws, including: (i) the form of the enacting clause of all Acts of Congress is set out in 1 U.S.C. Section 101; (ii) the form of the resolving clause of all joint resolutions is set out in 1 U.S.C. Section 102; (iii) a limitation on the use of enacting or resolving words is set out in 1 U.S.C. Section 103; (iv) a requirement regarding the numbering sections and the requirement that each contain a single proposition is set out in 1 U.S.C. Section 104; (v) the style and title for all Acts making appropriations is set out in 1 U.S.C. section 105; and (vi) the process by which each bill or joint resolution is handled after passage is set out in 1 U.S.C. section 106.

SEC. 4. TEXT OF BILL OR RESOLUTION TO SET OUT CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY.

    (a) TEXT OF BILL OR RESOLUTION TO SET OUT CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY.— Chapter 2 of Title 1 of the United States Code is Amended to include a new Section 105a, as follows:
    "Section 105a.— TEXT OF BILL OR RESOLUTION TO SET OUT CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY.—

(A)
  (i) Any bill or resolution introduced in either house of Congress shall contain a provision citing the specific powers granted to Congress in the United States Constitution to enact the proposed bill or resolution, including all the provisions thereof.
(ii) Any bill or resolution not complying with subsection (A)(i) shall not be accepted by the Clerk of the House of Representatives or the Secretary of the Senate.
(B)
  (i) In addition, the requirements of subsection (A)(i) shall apply to all bills or resolutions presented for floor action in either house of Congress, including, but not limited to, those bills or resolutions reported from a Committee of either house of Congress, produced by conference between the two houses of Congress, or offered as a manager's amendment.
(ii) Any bill or resolution not complying with subsection (A)(i) shall not be submitted to a vote on final passage.
(C) Neither house of Congress, nor Congress jointly — by concurrent resolution, or by unanimous consent, or by any other order, resolution, vote, or other means — may dispense with, or otherwise waive or modify, the requirements set forth in this section."

SEC. 5. TEXT OF BILL OR RESOLUTION TO SET OUT CURRENT LAW.

    (a) TEXT OF BILL OR RESOLUTION TO SET OUT CURRENT LAW.— Chapter 2 of Title 1 of the United States Code is Amended to include a new Section 105b, as follows:
    “Section 105b.— TEXT OF BILL OR RESOLUTION TO SET OUT CURRENT LAW.—

(A)
    (i) Any bill or resolution introduced in either house of Congress, designed to amend or modifying the effect of, or which would have the effect of amending or modifying the effect of, any current provision of law, including but not limited to the expiration date of any law, shall set out (a) the current version of the entire section of the Act of Congress or the U.S. Code being amended, verbatim, followed by (b) the amendments being proposed by the bill, followed by (c) the current section of law as it would read as modified by the amendments being proposed, provided however, that this subsection shall not apply to any bill or resolution which would strike the text of an entire section of an Act of Congress or the U.S. Code.
(ii) Any bill or resolution not complying with this subsection shall not be accepted by the Clerk of the House of Representatives or the Secretary of the Senate.
(B)
    (i) In addition, the requirements of subsection (A)(i) shall apply to all bills or resolutions presented for floor action in either house of Congress, including, but not limited to, those reported from a Committee of either house of Congress, produced by conference between the two houses of Congress, offered as a manager's amendment.
(ii) Any bill or resolution not complying with this subsection shall not be submitted to a vote on final passage.

(C) Neither house of Congress, nor Congress jointly — by concurrent resolution, or by unanimous consent, or by any other order, resolution, vote, or other means — may dispense with, or otherwise waive or modify, the requirements set forth in this section."

SEC. 6. PROCEDURES PRIOR TO VOTE ON BILL OR RESOLUTION.

    (a) Chapter 2 of Title 1 of the United States Code is Amended to include a new Section 105c, as follows:

"Section 105c.— PROCEDURES PRIOR TO VOTE ON BILL OR RESOLUTION.
    (A) In addition, no bill (except for private bills) or resolution shall be put to a vote on final passage before either house of Congress without:

(i)
    publication of its full text at least seven calendar days prior on an official Internet web site of each house of Congress, easily available to and readily usable by the public, using an open format that is platform independent, machine readable, and available without restrictions respecting searching, retrieval, downloading, and indexing, separate and apart from the Senate or House Calendar;
(ii)
    public notice of the specific calendar week during which such vote is scheduled to take place having been posted on the official Internet web site described in subsection (A)(i) at least six calendar days prior to Monday of that scheduled calendar week, with failure to take the vote during the noticed week requiring a new notice; and
(iii)
    reading of its full text verbatim by the Clerk of the House of Representatives or Secretary of the Senate to the respective body of each house called to order and physically assembled with a constitutionally-required Quorum to do business being present throughout the time of the full textual reading of said bill, provided however, that once a bill or resolution is enrolled by either house of Congress, any subsequent consideration of that enrolled bill or resolution need not be reread in full before the house of Congress which passed the bill, but only the reading of any amendments thereto.

    (B) Prior to voting in favor of final passage of any bill (except a private bill) or resolution, each member of the Senate and each member of the House shall sign an affidavit executed under penalty of perjury as provided in Section 1621, Title 18, United States Code, that the member either (i) was present throughout the entire reading of each such bill or resolution, and listened attentively to such reading in its entirety, or (ii) prior to voting for passage of such bill, read attentively each such bill in its entirety, or (iii) some combination of (i) or (ii), provided however, such affidavit shall not be required of any member of either House if such member votes against the passage of any bill or resolution. Copies of the affidavits shall be maintained by the Clerks of each house of Congress,

    (C) With respect to each vote on final passage of a bill (except for a private bill) or resolution, each house of Congress shall cause to be recorded in its journal of proceedings the publishing, notice, reading, and affidavit requirements of this section have been met.

    (D) Neither house of Congress, nor Congress jointly — by concurrent resolution, or by unanimous consent, or by any other order, resolution, vote, or other means — may dispense with, or otherwise waive or modify, any of the requirements set forth in this section."

SEC. 7. ENFORCEMENT CLAUSE.

    (a) Chapter 2 of Title 1, United States Code is Amended to include a new Section 105d, as follows:
    "Section 105d.— ENFORCEMENT CLAUSE.
    (1) Effective 90 calendar days after the enactment of this bill, no bill shall become law, nor enforced or applied as law, without Congress having complied fully with the requirements of Section 105a, Section 105b, and Section 105c of Chapter 2 of Title 1, United States Code, and any person against whom such a bill is enforced or applied may invoke such noncompliance as a complete defense to any action, criminal or civil, brought against him.
    (2) Any person aggrieved by the enforcement of, or attempt or threat of enforcement of, a bill passed without having complied with the said requirements, and any member of Congress aggrieved by the failure of the house of which he or she is a member to comply with said requirements, and any person individually aggrieved by the failure of the elected Senator of the State in which the aggrieved person resides, or elected member of the House of the District in which the aggrieved person resides, to fulfill that Senator's or House member's obligations under said requirements, shall, regardless of the amount in controversy, have a cause of action under Sections 2201 and 2202, Title 28, United States Code and Rules 57 and 65, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, against the United States to seek appropriate relief, including an injunction against enforcement of any law, the passage of which did not conform to the requirements of Sections 105a, 105b, and 105c."

SEC. 8. SEVERABILITY CLAUSE.

    (a) If any provision of this Act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid for any reason in any court of competent jurisdiction, that invalidity does not affect other provisions or any other application of this Act which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, which for this purpose the provisions of this Act are declared severable.

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