- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why bother?

Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat and House Judiciary Committee chairman, thinks requests to read legislation before voting on it are useless without some substantial legal assistance.

“I love these members, they get up and say, ‘Read the bill,’ ” Mr. Conyers said during a Friday lunch address at the National Press Club in downtown Washington. “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 read the bill?”

But Lisa Rosenberg of the Sunlight Foundation, who directs a project called ReadTheBill.org, said “Mr. Conyers is really missing the point.”

Read the Bill advocates want Congress to put all nonemergency legislation online for 72 hours before debate on the bill begins in the House or the Senate. Conservative and liberal groups are pursuing the effort, including the federation of U.S. Public Interest Research Groups, the Center for Responsive Politics, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and the National Taxpayers Union.

“A huge part of the Read the Bill campaign is that bills need to go online so that interest groups, the general public, the news media and bloggers all get a chance to read the bill and then weigh in with people like Mr. Conyers,” Ms. Rosenberg said.

Read the Bill supporters don’t want to have lawyers combing through legislation with them.

“You should just have at least two days or three days to read it!,” Ms. Rosenberg laughed.

DADT hearing

Freshman Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democrat tapped to fill Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vacated New York U.S. Senate seat, announced that the Senate Armed Services Committee will soon hold a hearing, at her request, on the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gay troops.

Such an event is certain to increase pressure on the president to repeal the policy and may also increase Ms. Gillibrand’s standing among liberals who have accused her of being too conservative on immigration and Second Amendment issues.

” ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is an unfair, outdated measure that violates the civil rights of some of our bravest, most heroic men and women,” said Ms. Gillibrand, who sits on the committee. “By repealing this policy, we will increase America’s strength - both militarily and morally.”

Sparking the new senator’s interest in the matter is a new report released by the liberal Center for American Progress, which found that 265 men and women have been dismissed from service under the rule since President Obama took office in January.

Mr. Obama promised to nix “don’t ask, don’t tell” while he was campaigning for president, but has not made any notable efforts to do so yet.

More GOP opposition to Sotomayor

A national group of Republican lawyers has petitioned the Senate to oppose President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court on the heels of the announcement by Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, that he would vote in her favor.

The Republican National Lawyers Association wrote a biting letter to the two parties’ Senate leaders and to top members of the Senate Judiciary panel Monday morning, citing ongoing concerns about Judge Sotomayor’s ability to be an impartial judge as one of the chief reasons for opposing her confirmation.

“Judge Sotomayor’s prior statements and writings reflect a disturbing view that the dispensing of equal justice to rich and poor is an ‘aspiration,’ not a solemn obligation, and evince a hubris about the roles of race and personal experience in judging that is inconsistent with proper standards of judicial impartiality,” the letter said.

The RNLA joins the National Rifle Association, another powerful lobby that announced its formal opposition to Judge Sotomayor last week. The NRA told senators in a separate letter that it would negatively calculate votes in her favor into its influential legislative ratings system.

The Sotomayor nomination is expected to pass out of committee Tuesday with unanimous Democratic support at least.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter @washington times.com.

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