There has been a lot of heated debate about whether Senators and Congressmen should read the 1000+ page bills that are being proposed, most notably the health care and Cap and Trade bills. Protesters at town hall meetings are demanding their representatives read every page of the bill before voting for it.
This seems like a reasonable request, though many senators and congressmen have taken offense to the idea that they read these bills. Representative John Conyers didn’t know what the point was in reading it because he wouldn’t understand it anyway. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer laughed at the idea of reading the health-care bill saying, “If every member pledged to not vote for it if they hadn’t read it in its entirety, I think we would have very few votes.” Representative Henry Waxman admitted he didn’t know the details of his own Cap and Trade bill. And Senator Arlen Specter said they couldn’t read the whole bill, because they have to “make adjustments very fast.” There is a simple solution to this issue, Senators and Congressmen don’t have to read the bill, just vote no.
It is a waste of everyone’s time to try to read 1000+ pages of a bill just to find out it is a bad bill. There is a handy, “cheat sheet” if you will, for every member of Congress to tell them whether or not they need to read any piece of legislation. It is called the U.S. Constitution. “What’s this U.S. Constitution you speak of?” A Senator or Congressman might ask. I’m glad you asked. It is a clever document written by some wise men in the late 1700s that tells the federal government exactly what they can and can’t do; some might even go as far as to say it is the “highest law in the land.”
My copy of the U.S. Constitution, which I got for free from the Cato Institute, is about 4 inches high by 3 inches wide, and including a Preface, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution with all Amendments, is 58 pages.
Article I of the U.S. Constitution lists the powers of the Legislative Branch and Amendment X of the Bill of Rights states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Basically, if it doesn’t explicitly say the federal government CAN do something that means it CAN’T.
Let’s practice. We will start with the Cap and Trade energy tax bill which was passed by the House a few weeks ago. No one could have possibly read this bill before it was passed, because an official copy didn’t even exists. No problem though, all they had to do was look in their trusty Constitution and see what it has to say. It does not have a section granting the United States the authority to regulate invisible gases. Ok, so now we look at the Amendments section…not there either. It’s not in the Constitution, therefore Congress can’t do it, so vote no.
On to Health care. This is a heated debate, so let’s consult the Constitution. Again, nothing in there about the government providing health care, health insurance, or anything else having to do with doctors or medicine. It’s not in there, so you don’t have to read the bill, just vote no.
This works with other bills as well. The Employee Free Forced Choice Act (EFCA) would allow the government to step into negotiations between Unions and Employers and arbitrate their contracts. The Constitution says nothing about the Federal Government arbitrating contracts between two private organizations. Vote no.
It is unfortunate that no one in the government had found their handy Constitution sooner. Does it allow them to use tax money to bailout banks? No. Does it allow them to use taxpayer money to buy auto companies? No. Does it allow them to “Stimulate” the economy by printing paper money out of thin air? No. It does allow them to borrow money, but it also says, “No state shall…make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts.”
If reading the Constitution is still too much for the average Senator or Congressman, there is an even easier way to decide how to vote. All they have to do is consult one part of the Declaration of Independence, “[T]hat they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness-That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their Powers from the Consent of the Governed”(Emphasis mine).
Before voting for a bill they only need to ask two questions. First, will this bill deny anyone of their Life, Liberty, or Pursuit of Happiness? For example, if one person is forced to pay for the health insurance of another that is denying him of his Liberty to spend his money in the manner he chooses without coercion. Second, because the rights of government are derived from the rights of the governed, does the average citizen have a right to do what is proposed in the bill? For example, can Joe Sixpack down the street, go to his local factory and force them to reduce their carbon emissions? If he doesn’t have the right, how did the government derive their right from him?
This should help to simplify things and allow members of Congress more time to raise money for reelection campaigns, go to luaus at the White House, and enjoy all of the other perks of being in Congress.
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