President Obama is pushing Congress to pass health care legislation that could nationalize as much as 10 percent of the economy. Most members of Congress will vote on this bill with no idea what's in it.
Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, disparaged lawmakers for even pretending to read the laws they pass. "I love these members, they get up and say, 'Read the bill,' " he said last week at the National Press Club. "What good is reading the bill if it's a thousand pages and you don't have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you've read the bill?"
Mr. Conyers might think it's an antiquated notion that congressmen actually read legislation, but it is the most fundamental responsibility of elected representatives to know and understand laws and how they will affect the lives of their constituents.
That is especially the case with such a gargantuan bill. The House version creates 53 new federal bureaucracies with everything from a Health Choices Administration to a Health Insurance Exchange Trust Fund to a Health Benefits Advisory Committee. Thirty-three entitlement programs are created or expanded.
The notion is put to rest that government might cooperate with doctors and patients to work out what is best for providing care. The health care bill uses the assertive word "shall" 1,683 times. These passages are government mandates that force doctors, consumers and others in the health care profession to do what Congress orders. The word "penalty" is used 156 times for those who don't follow orders. "Tax" is referred to 172 times.
Mr. Conyers is right about one thing: A legal education would come in handy when reading through this legislation. The bill is 1,018 pages long, very complicated and surely will cause legal disputes about its meaning for years to come.
To get a grip on the complexity of the government health care proposal, imagine the byzantine tax code applied to every family, patient, doctor, nurse, hospital, clinic, ambulance, pharmacy and insurance company in the country. Democrats shouldn't be allowed to ram through such a consequential piece of legislation until Americans and their elected representatives know what's in it.