Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
(WASHIGNTON) –Trying to make the most of the few grains of sand left in their session’s hour glass, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to pass the “Don’t Look, Don’t Read Act” Tuesday, barring any member of Congress (current or future) from reading any bill they will vote on again.
The sweeping measure was a response to the sharp criticism Congress received last spring after several members confessed they had not read the bill overhauling the nation’s health care system. But with “Don’t Look, Don’t Read,” instead of having to read the bills on which they vote, lawmakers are choosing to outlaw the practice altogether; legalizing that bills not be read, thus shielding them from criticism for not having read them —a most crafty and bold maneuver, say beltway analysts.
The historic measure passed 253-to-98, with 21 members abstaining, 49 voting “present” and 24 voting “temporarily dead.” The bill will now be put before the Senate, which coincidentally has come under fire recently after several members admitted not reading the $1.4 trillion, 1,924-page omnibus spending bill defeated last week. But if “Don’t Look, Don’t Read” passes in Harry Reid’s Senate, lawmakers could face heavy fines, censure, and even prison if caught reading anything on which they will be voting for on behalf of the American people.
Said bill co-sponsor and retiring Rep. Dennis Moore (D-KS) on the House floor Tuesday, “Ever since the health care vote last spring, our inability or refusal to read the legislation we pass has come under harsh scrutiny.” Moore was lambasted in the media last May after he admitted not reading the 2000-plus page health care overhaul bill he helped pass.
“But now with this bill’s passage, we’re one step closer to never having to go through the agony and detriment of reading what we vote on again! So, Americans can criticize us all they want for not reading our bills, but how will we when it will be against the law? And you know we’re sticklers for following the law,” continued Moore.
Fellow Democrats seem to agree. Commented House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) to reporters, “This (passage) is long overdue. It’s doubtful the founding fathers even intended lawmakers actually read the laws they would be enacting. It’s quite cumbersome to the modern legislative process.”
“Well, I could never read anyway, so that was my excuse,” said out-going and outspoken Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) on why he voted for the reading ban. “I voted for all those public servants who can’t read. But for the rest of my colleagues it’s cool, too, I guess.”
Don’t Look, Don’t Read: An Inevitable Necessity?
The Senate is expected to pass the bill by a slim majority at any moment, or else make it the first order of business when the still Democrat-controlled chamber reconvenes January 4th. But no matter what the final tally is, it is predicted “Don’t’ Look, Don’t Read” will be the law of the land by mid-January next year. Yet Americans remain decisively opposed to Congress not reading the bills they will vote on, according to a recent Gallup poll last week.
Although, claim “Don’t Look, Don’t Read’s” proponents, a comforting aspect of “Don’t Look, Don’t Read” is that it does not specify exactly how lawmakers will be allowed to know what their legislation stipulates. According to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, representatives will still know what is in their legislation through time-honored, reliable sources, such as pubescent, sycophantic interns, mistresses, grocery store conversations, late night talk show comedians, and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
Lawmakers will also be relying even more on the name of the bill in order to determine what is in it. Such a technique is nothing new to Congress, having provided stunning successes in the past. Examples of name-based-only votes abound, such as the No Child Left Behind Act (2001), the Patriot Act (2001), the recent DREAM Act (defeated, 2010), the Something Really Good Act (2003), the If You Don’t Vote for This You’re an Asshole Act (2007), Eighty-Four Trillion Dollars Really Isn’t That Much If You Think About It Act (2009), and the I’ll Be Damned If I’m Going to Allow My Daughter to Marry That Jewish Horse Act (defeated, 2009).
“It’s about time legislators’ votes are based largely on how clichéd and gut-wrenching the bills’ titles are, regardless of what they actually say,” said Senator Reid to Capitol reporters Tuesday. Reid added that “Don’t Look, Don’t Read” still allows members to read their bills after they have been passed, albeit pointlessly.
Concluded Reid to a gathered crowd, “The special interests; the Unions, the trial lawyers, investment firms, corporate conglomerates, banks, and foreign governments have been writing our nation’s bills for years anyway. So it’s not like having me or my colleagues reading them has ever accomplished anything. Trust me, this nation won’t notice a thi….Hey, look, there’s a ‘Final Holiday Sale’ down the street at Radio Shack!”
With the crowd dispersed, Senator Reid quietly retreated back to his office.
Being legally excused from reading their legislation would presumably be a relief to every Congress member. Yet some are reacting with offense to the pending ban. Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank is one of the few House members offended by DLDR.
Said Frank after Tuesday’s vote, “Listen, I’ve been serving in this chamber for thirty years and haven’t read a single piece of legislation yet! I don’t need some law telling me not to read the bills. I can do that –or rather not do that– quite freely on my own, thank you!”
A flustered Rep. Frank nonetheless voted Yea on the DLDR bill before storming off the House floor.
“This is just insulting,” added Frank. “Ridiculous—now we need a law to tell us not to do what we’ve always not done. What are we here, five years old?”