Quote of the Day:
“The issue of vagueness is at the heart of the NDAA scandal… While the NDAA poses a threat to your 4th, 5th and 6th Amendment rights, the newest attack of vague language is aimed at your 1st Amendment rights of Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly and Freedom to Petition.” – Gene Howington
DownsizeDC.org’s Read the Bills Act (RTBA) is a powerful lever that would slow the growth and power of government. Congress would be restrained from passing gargantuan bills that bust the federal budget and strangle the economy.
But it does more than that. It will help prevent the passage of confusing, vaguely-worded laws that endanger your rights. Indeed, recently Congress passed a seemingly mundane, 2-page bill that threatens your right to freedom of assembly.
Please send a letter as well. You may borrow from or copy these personal comments…
The Read the Bills Act…
- Requires the final version of bills to be posted seven days in advance of the vote on passage.
- Compels members of Congress voting for a bill to sign a statement swearing they have read the bill.
Understanding bills is important. That’s why the RTBA requires that a bill which amends a current law must include the text of the relevant section of that law. That way, you KNOW exactly what is being amended.
Also, the RTBA’s requirements give the public and members of Congress time to seek clarification or revision of confusing legislative language.
This is crucial. Consider sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act passed last December. When it was passed, many in Congress apparently did not believe it authorized the President to kidnap American citizens. This proves they did not understand the bill.
Another example is HR 347, the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act which recently became law.
Members of Congress were told that it was a common-sense bill that would make, for example, trespassing on the White House lawn a federal offense rather than a violation of a city ordinance.
- HR 347 passed 389-3, and nobody spoke out against it on the floor as it was coming up for a vote (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CREC-2012-02-27/pdf/CREC-2012-02-27.pdf).
- The Senate used their “Unanimous Consent” (http://www.senate.gov/reference/glossary_term/unanimous_consent.htm) rule to pass it, meaning no roll call vote, and we do not know which Senators were present or even had knowledge of the bill.
But HR 347 does much more than what you were told. Rep. Justin Amash notes that through a subtle change in language, HR 347 “expands current law to make it a crime to enter or remain in an area where an official is visiting even if the person does not know it’s illegal to be in that area and has no reason to suspect it’s illegal.” (http://bit.ly/yHEhxI)
This means peaceful protestors at a party convention or ANY OTHER PLACE (such as a sporting event) might be rounded up and prosecuted if someone with Secret Service protection is nearby.
Did you intend for this assault on the First Amendment?
Or did you not UNDERSTAND what HR 347 really does?
If the Read the Bills Act was in force, might not you have heard of concerns about HR 347 BEFORE it was passed, instead of after?
You must amend HR 347 to ensure that the right to peaceful assembly is preserved.
And you must pass the Read the Bills Act to prevent Congress from repeating such rights-threatening mistakes.
If you don’t, I will have to conclude that violating our rights was your intention all along.
As a service, DownsizeDC.org is compiling a list of bills that passed this year, as well as reporting on their length. You can see the bills passed…
Policy Research Director