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Is It Too Much To Expect Due Diligence From Congress?

My uncle once quipped to me that a see-through blouse was a lot like a solar eclipse. You know what's there and you know it's interesting

My uncle once quipped to me that a see-through blouse was a lot like a solar eclipse. You know what's there and you know it's interesting, but you're not supposed to look at it. It seems our elected representatives in Congress have the same philosophy where lawmaking is concerned.

Some of this nation’s most invasive and expensive federal programs are being proposed these days but legislators seem loathe to examine them before putting them to a vote. You would have thought these folks would have learned something about haste making waste following the taxpayer bailout of the banking industry when multi-million-dollar bonuses and luxury junkets continued to flow to bailed-out firms. At that time, the often-heard excuse from legislators when confronted by angry taxpayers was that they hadn’t foreseen it happening due to the speed with which they’d been forced to act.

Now, comes cap-and-trade legislation, followed by health-care reform, and our legislators seem driven to repeat their error.

  • On cap and trade, Congress was exhorted by the White House to pass it because it was urgently needed; the blanks could be filled in later. House members bowed to the pressure, but the measure stalled in the Senate.
  • On health-care reform, or health-insurance reform or as it’s now being called, President Obama wanted the House and Senate to vote on bills before the August recess.
But a strange thing happened on the way to the victory party; Americans rose up to call for a little due diligence from their elected representatives. One protester, a self-proclaimed Democrat, put it well to Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Democratic Majority Leader. He said: “Why would you folks try to stuff a health-care bill down our throats in 3-4 weeks when the president took six months to pick what he wanted for a dog?” You can see the exchange at

Meanwhile, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), House Judiciary Committee chairman, appearing before the National Press Club, famously questioned why lawmakers should bother reading the health-care bill at all. “I love these members who get up and say ‘read the bill,’” he said. “What good is reading the bill if it’s 1,000 pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?” (

Of course, what’s dangerous about this philosophy is that misguided and poorly considered efforts, no matter how well-intentioned, have a way of creating a lot of heartache in the real world. There are a lot of concepts that sound good and can be sold easily using emotional marketing –the ban on horse slaughter provides a telling example – but the real-life consequences present some huge problems to real people.

Without proper study, the only guarantees from this sort of lawmaking are confusion and steady employment for a lot of lawyers. In the rush to “never let a good crisis go to waste,” as Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff, has advised, the U.S. populace is facing the prospect of a huge yoke being placed on its shoulders for generations to come. If you’re concerned, be sure to let your legislators know about it.