Too Big to Pass

One of the most notorious news stories of the past week was Democratic Congressman John Conyers’ ridiculing of the idea that he and his fellow legislators should actually read bills–here, the health care “reform” act–before voting on them:

I love these members that get up and say, Read the bill! Well, 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’ve read the bill?

The version of the health care bill that passed the House’s Energy and Commerce Committee on a 31-28 vote is here. I’ve spent some time looking at it and, unlike most people, I am professionally qualified, in theory, to understand it. But, at over 1,000 pages, it’s a pretty hopeless task.
So I would propose a simple, bright-line rule. In recent months many observers have said that if a company is too big to fail (i.e., in a pinch the government will bail it out), then it is too big to exist. I think there is a lot of merit to that idea. Here is my corollary: if a bill is too vast for a Congressman to read and understand, it is too big to pass. If a Congressman can’t read the bill, he shouldn’t vote for it. The appropriate response to any such legislation is: just vote “No.”

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