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Another Question for Those Who Want Legislators to Take the "Read the Bill" Pledge:
Another question for the ReadtheBillers. The rubber meets the road with elections. So imagine you go into the voting booth and you have two choices. The first choice is Legislator A, who votes the way you like, shares your ideology, and generally "gets it," even though he's not exactly a policy wonk and he doesn't actually read the bills. The second choice is Legislator B, who usually votes the wrong way, and is misguided on everything important, but who very conscientiously reads every word of every bill on his way to his wrong votes. Would you vote for Legislator A or Legislator B? Or perhaps you would write-in David Bernstein?
Guest12345:
Off-topic:

Personally, I wrote you in for a judgeship in the 2008 general election in Washington due to the general principle that elections should always have at least two candidates. As near as I can tell they never counted my ballot as all judges who were up for election got 100% of the votes counted.
9.23.2009 7:46pm
Anderson (mail):
I don't care whether they read it or not, so long as the bill is posted online for public review at least 10 days before enactment.

SOMEONE will read it. No greater invention for pooling Too Much Free Time hath been crafted by the hand of Man, than the internet.
9.23.2009 7:47pm
CliveStaples (mail):
This seems like a false dichotomy.

Choose either:

1. A legislator who casts the "right" votes for the "wrong" reasons, or;

2. A legislator who casts the "wrong" votes for the "right" reasons.

This has precious little to do with the actual argument, which is that reading the bills is better than not reading the bills, ceteris paribus.

That is, the legislator in [1] would be better off by reading the bill, and the legislator in [2] would be worse off by not reading the bill.
9.23.2009 7:57pm
Mikhail Koulikov (mail):
Legislator A. His COS - who most likely *has* read the bill, and if not, probably knows far more about the bill than the legislator does - will have told him which way to vote that a) makes sense to him (the legislator), and b) makes sense to his constituents.
9.23.2009 8:01pm
Avatar (mail):
The real problem involved isn't that they aren't "reading" it, but that they're using that as an excuse for not taking responsibility for it. "Oh, I didn't know that was in there; it's a 1000-page bill and that slipped through."

As far as I'm concerned, they can read it, have it read to them, have it read by trusted staffers who give them a precis, or transmit the message to Mars and have the Martians beam understanding of the bill directly back into their brains. That doesn't change the fact that they're responsible for 100% of the contents of every bill. No "oh, that slipped through." No, it sure as heck did not. Someone put it in there, and it's the representative's job to know that it's in there and to vote accordingly.

Don't give me the "oh, it's too complicated" song and dance. Is the law less complicated than, say, the source code for Windows? Private industry licked the problem of version tracking years ago. If we can keep track of a million lines of computer code, we can certainly keep track of a thousand pages of legal code.

Lawmakers haven't put that into use because, unsurprisingly, they don't want to be held accountable for what goes into bills. The prospect of being called to account for each little earmark, every regulatory change that inconveniences everyone except for a particular campaign donor... It threatens, not our ability to get business done, but our ability to hide corruption, and the people that mistake the two are the ones you ought to be worrying about, eh?

So instead of calling on lawmakers to pledge to read each bill, just treat them like they're responsible for the contents, whether they've read them or not. Pretty soon, you'll find that said lawmakers will have worked out a system by which they'll be familiar with the contents of the bill...
9.23.2009 8:02pm
Jonathan H. Adler (mail) (www):
Orin --

Given the current political norms of legislative behavior, I'd probably vote for Legislator A, but the behavior you describe would certainly count against him. As a general rule, I tend not to just pull the lever for the "lesser evil." If both major party candidates are bad enough, I'll vote for a third party or abstain for that office.

JHA
9.23.2009 8:02pm
OrinKerr:
CliveStaples,

Actually, I think it has a lot to do with the actual argument: In my view, the best way to get a better legislature is to throw out the legislators who don't do a good job, not try to make legislators "better off" by making them promise to do things.
9.23.2009 8:02pm
Uncle Win (mail):
This is some incredibly forced contrarianism. Let's find one of the most unobjectionable principles in politics - that legislatures should read the bills they vote on - and somehow, some way make it seem problematic.
9.23.2009 8:04pm
David Welker (www):

This seems like a false dichotomy.



Obviously, the point of this question isn't to assert that if your a ReadtheBiller one will always have to make such a choice. Instead, the purpose of the question is to get a sense of how important reading the bill is. How much would you be willing to give up in order to have this procedural requirement met?
9.23.2009 8:05pm
second history:
This really goes to the question as to how much we know about the policy positions of candidates. For example, in California, Meg Whitman (former Ebay chief) is running for governor. Does one vote for her because she is an outsider business executive--but does business success translate into political success? Or do you vote for a seasoned politician, who has been in Sacramento for years and knows how to get along with legislators--but may be part of the problem?
9.23.2009 8:10pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
I might indeed vote for Candidate B, for the same reason I voted for Bill Clinton over George H.W. Bush in 1992. President Bush (41) looked me (and the rest of the nation) right in the eye and lied to me ("no new taxes"). I voted against him almost exclusively for that reason. Candidate Clinton made some good noises about centrism and a "new way," and seemed more moderate than the last 2 Democratic candidates, so I voted to oust the guy who most directly lied to me.

Of course, we still ended up, in that instance, with a President willing to tell bald-faced lies to the American public, so turns out to have been the wrong bet. But that is in fact the thought process that led to my vote.
9.23.2009 8:10pm
David Welker (www):

Given the current political norms of legislative behavior, I'd probably vote for Legislator A, but the behavior you describe would certainly count against him.


So you admit that the "read the bill" principle is not very important. You certainly are not willing to give up much in order to establish it if it comes down to it.

In fact, you don't even consider the behavior of not reading the bill bad enough to cause you to abstain or vote for a third party candidate who doesn't have a chance.

All this in the face of the fact that your vote has a probability of close to zero of actually influencing the outcome of an election.

If a principle is not important enough for you to give up your 0.001% chance of affecting the outcome of an election, then it is quite clear that this isn't really an important principle for you.

I personally wish that Republican activists would make Republican legislators sign "read the bill" pledges. That would be really great for Democrats.
9.23.2009 8:16pm
kimsch (mail) (www):
I think that Congress should just stop writing unreadable bills. Make them short, sweet, and to the point. If amendments are felt necessary, rewrite the damn thing to include the amendment, don't just add more and more.

We don't need 1,000 plus page bills with hundreds of amendments. No one knows until too late that amendment DD-72 totally nullifies amendment B-625....

They should almost have to repeal an old law before they can write a new one.
9.23.2009 8:23pm
Henry T:
Legislator B's conscientiousness would be a positive factor, but the only thing I would consider.
9.23.2009 8:24pm
Owen H. (mail):
"Read the bill" never was about reading the bills. It's about attacking those you disagree with.
9.23.2009 8:26pm
Bill Sommerfeld (www):
I support a "read-the-bill" mandate specifically because it would free me from having to make this choice.
9.23.2009 8:30pm
CliveStaples (mail):

Actually, I think it has a lot to do with the actual argument: In my view, the best way to get a better legislature is to throw out the legislators who don't do a good job, not try to make legislators "better off" by making them promise to do things.


I think we're talking at cross purposes here.

How do we know whether the legislators are doing a good job? They vote for things we want them to, and don't vote for things we don't want them to vote for. If Prospective Legislator A and Prospective Legislator B both generally hold to my political beliefs, but A reads bills and B doesn't, I would vote for A over B.

That is, A would be more likely to "do a good job" than B, by virtue of knowing what it is that he's voting for or against.
9.23.2009 8:30pm
Mikhail Koulikov (mail):
I think that Congress should just stop writing unreadable bills. Make them short, sweet, and to the point. If amendments are felt necessary, rewrite the damn thing to include the amendment, don't just add more and more.

All this would end up in is bills that say, basically, 'we authorize the federal government, or a particular specific department, to accomplish the stated purpose of this bill. Now, guys, have fun.'
9.23.2009 8:35pm
yankee (mail):
This has precious little to do with the actual argument, which is that reading the bills is better than not reading the bills, ceteris paribus.

But that is not the argument at all! The ReadtheBillers' claim is that legislators should never vote on legislation they haven't read in its entirety, or at least they should never vote in favor of it. The idea is that legislators who vote on (or for) legislation they haven't read in its entirety are failing to live up to their basic responsibilities as legislators. "Reading a bill is better than not reading it, all other things being equal," is a much weaker assertion.
9.23.2009 8:35pm
DJB2 (mail):
Legislator B.

Legislator A can run again later, after he shapes up. :)
9.23.2009 8:36pm
Brett Bellmore:
I, for one, don't see how legislator A manages to have a good voting record when he doesn't know what the freak he's voting on.

But if we're going to whole-heartedly accept this notion that legislators are really teams, no one man can do the job, let's go whole hog, and stop limiting elective office to natural born persons. Maybe we should permit corporations and interest groups to run for elective office.
9.23.2009 8:36pm
Brian K (mail):
"Read the bill" never was about reading the bills. It's about attacking those you disagree with.

exactly. it nicely explains why this issue has suddenly becomes a problem when the democrats are in charge.
9.23.2009 8:37pm
CliveStaples (mail):
"Read the bill" never was about reading the bills. It's about attacking those you disagree with.


There's some truth to that. There's only four possibilities for legislators that don't read the bill before casting their vote:

i. Legislator votes against [x], and would have voted against [x] had he read it.

ii. Legislator votes against [x], but would have voted for [x] had he read it.

iii. Legislator votes for [x], and would have voted for [x] had he read it.

iv. Legislator votes for [x], but would have voted against [x] had he read it.


I think most people consider (i) and (iii) far more trivial than (ii) and (iv).
9.23.2009 8:39pm
ShelbyC:
Hey, I just think having them read the bills is better than the current decisionmaking process
9.23.2009 8:43pm
CliveStaples (mail):
But that is not the argument at all! The ReadtheBillers' claim is that legislators should never vote on legislation they haven't read in its entirety, or at least they should never vote in favor of it. The idea is that legislators who vote on (or for) legislation they haven't read in its entirety are failing to live up to their basic responsibilities as legislators. "Reading a bill is better than not reading it, all other things being equal," is a much weaker assertion.


A legislator is obliged to represent the interests of his constituents. If a legislator votes in favor of a bill whose provisions he is unaware of, isn't he neglecting his duty? He is failing to ensure that his vote represents the interests of his constituents, regardless of whether the adopted (or rejected) proposals align with those interests by happenstance.
9.23.2009 8:44pm
jasmindad:
This is a repost of what I said in response to Jonathan Adler, since it is relevant here as well:
It's completely silly to require that a legislator read every word of a legislation he or she is voting on. It's completely proper that when questions are raised about a piece of legislation he or she has voted on, the legislator is not allowed the defense, "Gee, it was a large bill, do you expect me to read every line of such bills?" It's the legislator's job to take *responsibility* for votes on bills. This can be done in many ways, only one of which is to read and comprehend everything in the bill. It can also be done by hiring competent staff to review &brief him or her on every substantive aspect of the legislation. The real issue is not reading or even comprehending, but to take responsibility. That's how political responsibility works.
9.23.2009 8:48pm
Mike& (mail):
Orin: Do you really think we would be worse off as a country if Congress limited its work to enacting those bills that its members had actually read?

Granted, I have a bias: I think Congress enacts too many laws; and that they do so thoughtlessly. If Congress took more time to consider issues, perhaps we'd have fewer - but better - laws.
9.23.2009 8:56pm
PC:
If a legislator votes in favor of a bill whose provisions he is unaware of, isn't he neglecting his duty?

The crux of the issue. Congresscritters have staff that review bills and inform the representative what the bill is about. The congresscritter hires people they trust to review the legislation they enact. A congresscritter is most likely aware of the "pork", or "favors," or whatever, when they vote for a bill, but anyone that follows the history of republics would call that "government." It's pork when someone else gets it, it's jobs when we get it.

Really? Is it that hard?
9.23.2009 9:04pm
OrinKerr:
Orin: Do you really think we would be worse off as a country if Congress limited its work to enacting those bills that its members had actually read?

I don't think it would make any difference, in part because they wouldn't understand what they are reading if they had to read the raw bill text.
9.23.2009 9:05pm
BGates:
"Read the bill" never was about reading the bills. It's about attacking those you disagree with.

And racism.
9.23.2009 9:09pm
Mike& (mail):
I don't think it would make any difference, in part because they wouldn't understand what they are reading if they had to read the raw bill text.

Yes. That echoes the "thoughtless" criticism of Congress. Why do we want people voting on bills they don't understand? Voting on a law you don't understand is thoughtless.

When I don't understand some area of law, I don't comment about it. You don't, either. It'd be irresponsible. And, frankly, embarrassing.

Yet we have people enacting laws that will change how people live - perhaps leading to people being imprisoned, even - who don't have any idea what they are doing. As an American citizen, I am not willing to be a Christ figure who utters: "Forgive them for they know not what they do."

I'd rather they not do anything at all than get involved with something they lack comprehension of.
9.23.2009 9:12pm
Steve:
Clients pay me upwards of $300 an hour to write them memos on what pending legislation means. They're fools, since they'd understand the bills much better by ignoring my lawyer's summary and just reading the bills themselves!
9.23.2009 9:14pm
Mike& (mail):
Interesting footnote to this discussion: There are so many federal criminal laws on the books that scholars who study the issue say that it's impossible to know how many there are. See the ABA Report on the Federalization of Criminal Law.

Yet Congress enacted all of those laws.

It seems to me that it'd be a great thing for Congress to stop enacting legislation so quickly that dedicated scholars can't even keep up with with.

After all, because of Congress, "You're Probably a Federal Criminal."
9.23.2009 9:16pm
John Thacker (mail):
he rubber meets the road with elections. So imagine you go into the voting booth and you have two choices. The first choice is Legislator A, who votes the way you like, shares your ideology, and generally "gets it," even though he's not exactly a policy wonk and he doesn't actually read the bills. The second choice is Legislator B, who usually votes the wrong way, and is misguided on everything important, but who very conscientiously reads every word of every bill on his way to his wrong votes.


This, of course, holds in general. You could say the same thing about taking bribes to vote the way that you think is better for the country. People don't, for the most part, care about ethics nearly as much about voting the right way. (Republicans with ethics violations do seem to be somewhat slightly to lose re-election than Democrats, but I'd need more study.)
9.23.2009 9:17pm
Mike& (mail):
Clients pay me upwards of $300 an hour to write them memos on what pending legislation means. They're fools, since they'd understand the bills much better by ignoring my lawyer's summary and just reading the bills themselves!

Your clients are the ones who are required to follow the law. How can you tell someone to follow a law that you yourself do not comprehend? That is what Congresspersons who lack an understanding of the law, do.
9.23.2009 9:19pm
Tom952 (mail):
The notion that the "read the bill" requirement would result in more concise bills is appealing.
9.23.2009 9:19pm
CliveStaples (mail):

I don't think it would make any difference, in part because they wouldn't understand what they are reading if they had to read the raw bill text.


How did you arrive at this conclusion? Shouldn't we elect Senators who are able to understand what they're voting on?
9.23.2009 9:20pm
BGates:
They're fools, since they'd understand the bills much better by ignoring my lawyer's summary and just reading the bills themselves!

That might be true. You might not be a very good lawyer. Apparently your clients are willing to take that risk, in part because they think they have more important things to do than to understand every detail of every new law.

What are the more important things for Congress to do, than that?
9.23.2009 9:21pm
PersonFromPorlock:
At this point my intention is to vote the incumbents out, regardless of their virtues or lack thereof. We're dealing with a corrupt political culture and all of its members need a short, sharp shock... pour encourager les autres, if nothing else.
9.23.2009 9:22pm
OrinKerr:
Shouldn't we elect Senators who are able to understand what they're voting on?

Understanding what you're voting on and reading the bill text are two very different things. That's the problem: People are pretending that the best way to understand a bill is to read the raw text instead of reading a summary, talking to an expert, etc. But reading a bill text is like reading a web page in "page source" mode, with all the html coding: Sure, you see more information, but it's not the information you need to really understand what you're reading.
9.23.2009 9:26pm
Mike& (mail):
Understanding what you're voting on and reading the bill text are two very different things.

Not necessarily. Give me a bill that amends some law. I'll pull out the relevant Title of the United States Code Annotated. I'll scan the annotations. Read the current legislation. Then I'll see how the bill changes legislation.

That's what any of us who were trying to understand proposed legislation would do. You read the proposed text, and compare it with the current text.

Yes, it requires work. Which is sort of the point. Congresspersons should get busy working on the law rather than meeting with corporate lobbyists.
9.23.2009 9:32pm
John Thacker (mail):
Orin:

Most people would similarly have a tough time voting for politician B over politician A, even if the difference was that politician A took bribes, but took bribes to vote the same way that the voter honestly thought was best for the country.

Are you suggesting that politicians shouldn't take pledges to avoid bribes, and that bribery should be legal?
9.23.2009 9:32pm
CliveStaples (mail):

Understanding what you're voting on and reading the bill text are two very different things. That's the problem: People are pretending that the best way to understand a bill is to read the raw text instead of reading a summary, talking to an expert, etc. But reading a bill text is like reading a web page in "page source" mode, with all the html coding: Sure, you see more information, but it's not the information you need to really understand what you're reading.


For you and I, sure. But neither you nor I are employed to ensure that only the very best code makes it to the page source. Senators are elected to pass good bills and reject bad bills (with "good" and "bad" defined by their constituency). If the Senators are not expected to know whether a bill is good or bad, who is? And why didn't we elect that person to vote on it?
9.23.2009 9:38pm
Devan B (mail):
This seems like a false dichotomy.

Yep.

Orin's question exploits the fact that "reads the bill" is only one element in the bundle of qualities that make up a legislator. He claims that, because it's not the most important element in the bundle, it's not important. But this doesn't follow.

I agree with Clive's analysis. Though it's not the most important element, it's important enough to matter in the margin. And in a pretty-much evenly split Congress, it's those marginal votes that matter.
9.23.2009 9:41pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
I would want my legislator to not only vote the right way, but because he had read the bills was able to point out problems with them that would cause some of his colleagues to vote the same way (probably against).
9.23.2009 9:44pm
Doug Sundseth (mail):
The choice you have offered is between incompetence or active evil ("...misguided on everything important...") and negligence. The former is worse; I would vote for the negligent politician.

Realpolitik can be an ugly thing.

That said, I would campaign against (and vote against) the incompetent during the primary, and, if the occasion arose, sign my name to a recall petition and vote for his recall.
9.23.2009 9:45pm
Devan B (mail):
Hold on:

#1: Orin's solution to bad decision-making on the part of legislators is to elect new legislators.

#2: The "Read the Bill" solution is to try and improve the decision-making process of existing legislators.

Assuming that ReadtheBill would improve decision-making, #2 is much more likely to yield long-lasting improvement than #1 (after all, who says the new legislators will make any better decisions than the present?).
9.23.2009 9:48pm
Abdul Abulbul Amir (mail):

The question is off base. The reasons to ensure time to read the bill(s) is twofold. The first and most imnportant is accountability. Take away the excuse that those blankety blanks slipped in that @#$%^&* provision at the last minute ot I would have voted the other way if I knew. The second reason is a time constraint by itself imposes a prioritization that would not exist otherwise.
9.23.2009 9:57pm
kimsch (mail) (www):
Mikhail Koulikov All this would end up in is bills that say, basically, 'we authorize the federal government, or a particular specific department, to accomplish the stated purpose of this bill. Now, guys, have fun.'

Not necessarily... The 1935 Social Security Act was ~42 pages. The US Constitution less than 20. If they don't put in a lot of crap, they could write bills that even a congresscritter could read.

If they insist on putting in verbiage such as "In paragraph 17 of Section 115aaa of the ThisBadLaw delete the word "and" and in paragraph 2079 in section 50,234aabbccdd add the word "and" before the word "is"." They should also put in a footnote to define exactly what that will do - or what they expect that to do...
9.23.2009 10:37pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
So I suppose if the question is between voting for a lucky fool or a malicious bastard,* I would vote for the lucky fool.

* Most politicians I agree with sometimes and disagree with sometimes. For someone to vote consistently against my wishes would require a level of personal malice that I have never seen in a politician.

However, if the choice was between a representative who studied the bill and usually disagreed with me for intelligible and intelligent reasons, and one who went along with public whim without reading the bills, I would vote for the smart, prepared guy.
9.23.2009 10:37pm
ShelbyC:

I don't think it would make any difference, in part because they wouldn't understand what they are reading if they had to read the raw bill text.


How 'bout an expectation that they should understand the bills? The folks that have to obey them have to understand them, and I've personally long been opposed to the idea that you should have to hire some expensive professional just to obey the law.
9.23.2009 11:19pm
Random Commenter:
"Clients pay me upwards of $300 an hour to write them memos on what pending legislation means. They're fools..."

I'm inclined to agree. Snark aside, how useful are your services when the client gives you a 1000 page document to read and an hour to render your opinion?
9.23.2009 11:49pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
So imagine you go into the forest on the first day of hunting season. In one section of forest is Hunter A, who is a really lousy shot (he tends to close his eyes before he pulls the trigger) and in ten years of hunting has shot two deer and a whole bunch of trees. In another section of forest is Hunter B, who is an excellent shot but tends to shoot at -- and hit -- anything colored orange. In which section of forest would you feel safer?
9.23.2009 11:58pm
Bill Dyer (mail) (www):
This is a good-governance, minimal-competency issue, not a question of liberals versus conservatives or anything else related to substantive policy. If you haven't read the bill, you can't possibly be exercising the legislative function competently, regardless of any other qualifications you have or whether you're otherwise an appealing candidate.

So your question is sort of like "Would you vote for him if he's dead?" Of course not; only living persons may hold office. Similarly, only legislators who've read the legislation (or potential electors who will, if elected) are eligible to make the first cut.

Pledges and promises to read are meaningless and unenforceable. I propose a constitutional amendment to put teeth into the requirement.
9.24.2009 12:26am
Bill Dyer (mail) (www):
Sorry, instead of "electors" there meant "legislators."
9.24.2009 12:27am
GainesvilleGuest (mail):
Your questions misses the basic assumption of the ReadtheBillers' request. They believe that any legislator's who actually read these bills won't possibly vote for them.

It's incorrect. However, bottom line, they believe there is a causal relationship between legislators reading bills and being on their side of the issues.
9.24.2009 1:04am
NickM (mail) (www):
I'd like them to actually Write The Bill before voting on it. "Conceptual language" doesn't count.

Nick
9.24.2009 1:25am
Rich Rostrom (mail):
Orin: Which surgeon would you rather have operate on you? A drunken slob? Or a sober, careful, skillful person whose knowledge of human anatomy and physiology is grossly mistaken?

I could not vote for legislator B under any circumstances. His principles move him to do the wrong thing. The more competent he is, the more wrong he will vote.
9.24.2009 4:46am
Federal Dog:
"This seems like a false dichotomy."

It is. I vote for neither.
9.24.2009 7:50am
David Schwartz (mail):
A better dichotomy to present to ReadTheBillers is this one: Would you prefer a representative that reads every word of every bill and has little time left to participate in the drafting and negotiation process and frequently gains an incorrect understanding on areas in which he is not expert or misses implications? Or would you prefer a representative who efficiently delegates bill analysis to competent experts in each field and who has plenty of time to go to other representatives with concise arguments for and against various bills based on expert information?
9.24.2009 11:44am
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
From my experience reviewing proposed legislation for members of Congress I can testify that many members would indeed vote "no" instead of "yes" if they were fully aware of what they are being asked to vote on. I found fatal flaws in many bills that caused the members I advised to change their votes, usually toward the negative. I a couple of cases it resulted in the bills going back to committee for reworking, and resulted in better bills.

The key is enabling the public to read and comment on pending legislation. There is no way staffers or even lobbyists can cover the workload. We need to engage the public in the review process.
9.24.2009 12:15pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
By the way, it should be understood that in many of the subjects on which Congress legislates, there are no true experts being consulted, either staffers or lobbyists. One of the reasons my review work was appreciated was because of the low level of expertise on the part of the Congressional Research Service.

Our best and brightest are not in government.
9.24.2009 12:18pm
David Schwartz (mail):
Jon Roland: All of your arguments show why making Congressmen read the bills is not the solution. It's obviously much more important that competent experts review the bills and pass their concerns on to Congressmen who have the time to do something about it.
9.24.2009 1:29pm
Steve P. (mail):
I agree completely with Orin's point. And I (tentatively) second Anderson's proposal of a 10-day waiting period before buying a handgun. I mean, voting.

The only problem with always posting the full text of a bill x number of days before it gets voted on is that there are often many last-minute changes to appease various constituencies. If you waited the full 10 days after all changes, these fragile coalitions would fall apart. In real life, this means a "posting" requirement usually would favor the status quo. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, just pointing it out.
9.24.2009 2:16pm
Anil Petra (mail):
False choice.

Elections must be held on a date certain. Democratic principles have led our society to push everyone, even those unfamiliar with candidates and issues, to exercise the franchise. Laws significantly limit private expenditure to educate the populace prior to an election. One could go on and on.

The questions remains. Why cannot the final bill be placed online 72 hours prior to a vote?

Why cannot the CBO be given an opportunity to score it financially prior to a vote?

(The latter is, I understand, compromised by CBO methodology. Mechanisms without enforcement that call for future cuts will be scored alongside actual expenditures, permitting the deception of deficit neutrality. Sigh.)
9.25.2009 12:20pm

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Comment Policy: We reserve the right to edit or delete comments, and in extreme cases to ban commenters, at our discretion. Comments must be relevant and civil (and, especially, free of name-calling). We think of comment threads like dinner parties at our homes. If you make the party unpleasant for us or for others, we'd rather you went elsewhere. We're happy to see a wide range of viewpoints, but we want all of them to be expressed as politely as possible.

We realize that such a comment policy can never be evenly enforced, because we can't possibly monitor every comment equally well. Hundreds of comments are posted every day here, and we don't read them all. Those we read, we read with different degrees of attention, and in different moods. We try to be fair, but we make no promises.

And remember, it's a big Internet. If you think we were mistaken in removing your post (or, in extreme cases, in removing you) -- or if you prefer a more free-for-all approach -- there are surely plenty of ways you can still get your views out.