Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Illiteracy and the US Congress

When you saw the title to the blog posting you may have thought I was referring to education. While illiteracy among our nation's youth is worthy of a blog posting, that is not what I am writing about. I am writing about the epidemic of illiteracy among our representatives in Washington D.C. They can't seem to read the bills they pass. Now I am being facetious but the gist of it is this. Legislation matters. Words mean things. Especially when it comes to our nation's laws. Too often in Washington, we have Senators and Representatives who know bullet points but not the fine print. This is laziness, ignorance, and outrageous. We have a few problems that need to fixed for the next congress.
1. Too little time- Our Representatives and Senators cannot be expected to know what it is in a 2000 page bill in 24 hours. We have seen it time and time again. Bills that are too big and expansive, and too little time for markup, amending, and debating. Legislation is supposed to be a deliberate, slow process. It is not supposed to be rushed or hurried. Our legislators need time to read the bill themselves and understand the full ramifications of the bills before they vote.
2. Bills are too big and complicated- It amazes me that bills like H.R. 83, or Cromnibus, and The Affordable Care Act are thousands of pages long. These bills hurt our economy. They violate the  values of common sense, conservative thought. They are a blight on our legislative system. These atrocities of legislation are thousands of pages long, yet some of the greatest and meaningful documents are only pages long. Think of our Constitution. You can fit in your pocket, with a pocket sized edition. The Declaration of Independence is the same way. These two documents not only are the documents that defined and canonized our way of government. They have set the standard for democracy for over 200 years, and they can fit in your pocket. Try fitting a copy of the ACA or Cromnibus in your pocket. You will feel a draft is all I can say. Bills should be succinct. Bills should not be a catch all for hundreds of other bills. Amendments should be short and sweet. No more 500 page amendments. We need to simplify this process.
3. Read the bill- We elected our Senators and Representatives to govern. We did not vote for them to outsource the job of being a legislator. I understand the need for staffers. Staffers in Congress do a great job, but they do too much of the work. Legislators should be writing the bills. Legislators should be reading the bills. Too many times, a legislator will have talking or bullet points on legislation but other than that are clueless. Too many times their staff reads and researches the bill and not the legislator.
To prove my point, here is a section of an e-mail that our local Rep. Renee Ellmers sent my father. My dad had written her office to express his hope that she would vote against H.R. 83 or CROmnibus. Here is what she said that struck me.

" I took an oath to serve my constituents and that involves reviewing and understanding federal law, not voting based misinformation from outside groups with their own self-interest in mind. With that being said, our staff thoroughly reviewed H.R. 83, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act for FY2015
Notice a key phrase,
"our staff thoroughly reviewed H.R. 83"
My question to Rep. Ellmers is, why didn't you review the bill? If you took an oath to review and understand federal law than why did your staff and not you review HR 83?

Unfortunately, she did not read the bill, and she did not listen to my Father. She did not listen to the thousands of people in the 2nd district, who asked her to represent NC and DC. She voted for HR 83 anyways. I'm sad to say that in Rep. Ellmers case, even if she had read the bill and understood it, she still would have voted for it anyway. Since that is what the House GOP leadership wanted her to do.

The new GOP congress will have a fresh start. A new day in which to begin the process of reviving and repairing our damaged nation. I would hope that in addition to enacting common sense, conservative reforms that they would consider the above issues and reform our process of passing bills. Take your time. Cut the waste, and excess. Above all, read the bill. We have to live under it. The least they could do is read what they subject us to.

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