After Rep. John Conyers attempted to laugh at those who insisted he do the job to which he was elected, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH) tried a more sympathetic approach with the Nashua Telegraph. How can people expect their elected representatives in the House and Senate to read the bills before voting on them? Do constituents have any appreciation for their workload?
Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes (NH-02) believes reading every bill in Congress “would slow down the business of Congress to a crawl and it would be hard to get done what needs to be done.”
Members of Congress who don’t read the bills they are voting on “is not necessarily the major problem with the way Congress functions,” he said. …
“Hodes said it’s not realistic to expect members of Congress to read every bill word-for-word, as Congress took more than 2,000 votes in the session that ended in December,” the paper reports.
This year, Hodes voted in support of President Barack Obama’s stimulus package and for so-called cap-and-trade legislation. Both measures were finalized late in the legislative process and rushed to a vote before any individual member could read the bills.
First, most of those bills are proclamations and minor legislation renaming post offices and the like, not serious lawmaking. Even apart from that, does Hodes really want to issue a cri de coeur over the hard life of a Representative — on the first day of his six-week vacation? How many people get paid $174,000 per year for working four-day weeks for about two-thirds of a year? I’m certain his constituents will feel his pain, especially those having to work overtime to make ends meet or those who can’t get a job at all in this economy.
Hodes answers his own question in this response. Congress passes too much legislation that intrudes on people’s lives too much as it is, and the rush to vote on bills without having read them contributes to that trend. Requiring the elected officials to actually represent their constituents by reading the legislation would have the salutary effect of slowing down the legislative process and limit the damage each Congress could do to life, liberty, and property while in session. Any other process negates the representative democracy this republic uses to govern itself, and transforms it into a staffocracy run by partisan leadership.
In the picture for this post, Hodes tries to look hip by playing guitar at one of his appearances. I recall a story about Van Halen, who took some criticism for a clause in its appearance contracts that demanded bowls of M&Ms for their dressing rooms — with all of the brown M&Ms removed. The band explained that it wasn’t an imperial indulgence, but instead a key indicator to them whether the venue had bothered to read and comply with the contract. Their stage shows are very complicated and require a lot of logistical support, and their early-warning system that the venue hadn’t prepared for their show was those brown M&Ms in the bowls.
Maybe we could try that with Congress, as long as Democrats remain in charge.