Sunday, May 01, 2005

Nuclear Brinksmanship

Gene Healy at Cato Institute has interesting commentary about the Senate. By rule every bill must be read in its entirety on the Senate floor, unless there is unanimous consent to stop reading the bill. Thus, it would be very easy for the Democrats, or any member of the Senate, to "shut down" the Senate.
Bringing the Senate to a crashing halt will hardly scare those of us who believe that no man's property is safe while Congress is in session. In fact, there would be something perversely entertaining about C-SPAN programming dominated by the monotonous recitation of 700-page agriculture bills. If only the senators could be forced to sit and listen. The Intelligence Reform Bill of 2004 is 236 pages long, and it's a safe bet few senators read it in its entirety. McCain-Feingold clocked in at a mere 36 pages, yet in February 2003 The New York Times reported that the Democratic and Republican party organizations had to hire high-priced lawyers and consultants to run seminars teaching senators and congressmen about the requirements of the law they had just passed. 'I didn't realize what all was in it,' Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.) said. A breakdown in Senate cooperation would lead to a period of blissful inactivity, and could help educate the public about the increasingly incomprehensible statutes Congress calls 'laws.'
"I didn't realize what all was in it." I can understand not sitting in your Senate chair to listen to the reading of a bill, but is it really wise to admit you're an elected representative and you don't "realize" all your are voting for or against?

Public choice economists explain rationally ignorant voters and the nature of the system of politics that can result. Now Representative Matsui seems to illustrate that elected officials in a republican form of government may choose to be rationally ignorant as well. If Republicans succeed in getting Senate votes for all judicial appointments, perhaps their next rule change should be to require reading all bills in the Senate, no exeptions. It may be hopeless to think Senators and Representatives would be informed about the bills the vote on, but perhaps it would be be the case that more time reading would lead to less time enacting.

No comments: