The anti-Washington fervor sweeping the country involves more than the backlash against exorbitant federal spending. The arrogance of power is manifest in the passage of laws opposed by vast majorities of Americans. Most of these bills aren’t even read by those in Congress who vote for them and impose the dictates on the rest of us. The message to lawmakers is simple: Read the legislation.
It’s irresponsible when Congress produces complicated proposals, often running into hundreds or thousands of pages, behind closed doors and then jams the bills into law a few hours after printing the final version. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, epitomized the arrogance and irresponsibility of this practice in March when she said about Obamacare, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”
Although the concept of requiring at least 72 hours between a bill’s introduction and the vote on final passage is popular, the Democrat-run Congress runs roughshod over requests for reasonable time to study legislation. Before congressional recesses, Senate leaders increasingly have relied on a procedure called “hot-lining” to pass bills without even a vote. While most senators are hot-tailing their way out of town, it’s announced that bills are passed by unanimous consent unless a senator objects in person on the Senate floor. It’s hard to object when you’re already on a plane.
In 2007, for example, the Senate hot-lined into law an astonishing 855 bills with a total combined cost of at least $9 billion. That’s not even taking into account the price tag for a host of bills that were rushed through so fast that they didn’t carry an official cost analysis.
Enter Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican. On Monday, he announced he will place objections to all unanimous-consent requests unless he and his staff have time to study and approve the bills. DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton explains, “If big spenders in Washington are going to try to ram through last-minute deficit spending, or new taxes, or new regulations, or major changes in current law, or expanding government programs, Sen. DeMint has put them on warning that he is going to object unless there is ample time to review these bills and address concerns.”
Democratic leaders will complain that such principled politicking is obstructionism. Most Americans will call it good government.