Contact FreedomWorks

400 North Capitol Street, NW
Suite 765
Washington, DC 20001

  • Toll Free 1.888.564.6273
  • Local 202.783.3870

Blog

Does Congress Understand Their Own Bills? Of Course Not

The fix is in. Did you know, members of Congress don’t read bills in their entirety before voting on them? I wish I was kidding.

Bills are written in bureaucratic legal-speak, making them extremely difficult for the average person to understand. According to former Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY), “One could 'read' the bill and have no idea what it actually means.”

This complicated legislative “code” usually comes from the Office of the Legislative Counsel, a nonpartisan office tasked with drafting legislative language. Members of Congress rely on their legislative staff, or experts in outside organizations, to translate the main points of the bill into plain English.

When asked if members of Congress read the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) said, “Of course not. Are you kidding?”

The most stunning admission came from then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during the ObamaCare debate, insisting that Congress had to “pass the bill, so that you can find out what’s in it.”

This is madness. Fortunately, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) proposed a bill that would mandate Senators to read every piece of legislation before they vote on it. The proposed Read the Bills Act (S.3360) would require the full text to be published at least seven days before a vote, and a verbatim reading of its full text to the chamber. It would also require a congressional member to sign an affidavit (before the vote) that confirms the member read the entire bill, or was present and listened to the entire reading of the bill in the chamber.

If members of Congress don’t have a clear understanding of what they are voting on, what is currently influencing their policy decisions?

Simple: Lobbyists, party leadership, and special interests.

The American people aren’t being heard by government because the game is rigged. Washington isn’t broken. It’s “fixed.”