Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Conyers the Clueless

An item in Tuesday's Washington Times reveals the utter cluelessness of even the most experienced Members of Congress.

In the Inside Politics column, we learn:

Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, thinks it's ludicrous to expect members of Congress to read legislation before voting.

"I love these members, they get up and say, 'Read the bill,' " Mr. Conyers said at a National Press Club luncheon last week.

"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?" he asked.
Conyers, who has served in Congress since 1965, inadvertently reveals the core of the problem: Congress writes laws that are too complex for even Congressmen to understand.

The answer to this is not "read the bill," however useful this might seem. (And I do not disagree with those who propose that Members of Congress must swear under oath that they have read a bill before they can vote on it.)

The answer is to make legislation simpler and easier to understand.

Rather than introducing, considering, and voting on a bill of 1,000 pages or more, it should be divided into its constituent parts, with each of those parts judged on its own merits.

As Theodore Roosevelt once said, "It is difficult to make our material condition better by the best law, but it is very easy enough to ruin it by bad laws."

Complex laws are by their nature "bad" laws. If "two days and two lawyers" are not sufficient to understand them, they should be rejected flatly.

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