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July 15, 2009

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The history of CERCLA (aka the Superfund law) is pretty ugly too.

"In a prior post, I called for a Congress that reads all the bills it passes"

This is just inane. Representatives and Senators waste most of their time, it's true, but on fundraising, and being gladhanded by lobbyists who have raised funds for them.

All significant bills are highly technical and complex, and that's exactly why you hire technical experts on your staff to be able to spend their time analzying them for you. If Reps and Senators were to prioritize sitting around reading endlessly lawyerly phrases referring from subsection D of part IV, footnote A in Section 21 of subsection 43(b)(d) of the first part of Part V, footnote 227, part two, they'd have even less time to actually think about anything than they already do, which is currently pretty much zero anyway.

I have trouble believing this guy has ever worked in Congress, or even ever talked to a Congressional staffer. Who is he, and what are his credentials for knowing what he's talking about here, exactly?

Ah. "Conor Friedersdorf is a journalist who splits his time between New York City and California."

Nothing there about ever actually reporting on Congress. Maybe they just left that part out. Or maybe he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.

We have that in the Netherlands. Parliament passes laws but the vast majority of rules citizens have to live by are so-called administrative laws, made up by career bureaucrats, and more and more these people are exceeding their authority when it comes to human rights and civil liberties, it seems.

Thank you Gary, I'm so sick of people discussing the "read the whole bill" argument as if it were a sane one. There's a reason congressmen have staffers and analysts working for them. Anyone arguing this canard hasn't progressed past a "School House Rock" version of government and should be called on it.

What I would appreciate is:
1. Monothematic bills
2. If a bill changes the wording of another, the change should be actually explained in the text, not reduced to 'delete word X in location Y' and 'add Z at location A'. I hear the whole Patriot Act consisted mainly of changes of the latter type, amking it almost incomprehensible.
3. Length limits (exept maybe for budget bills).
What also would have some appeal is a dry-run/preliminary sunset principle. This would mean that a law would include a clause that it expires, if not finally affirmed after a certain period of time. The vote would have to be a mandatory one, i.e. immune from filibusters or delaying tactics as currently used in the case of sunsetted laws.

a law would include a clause that it expires, if not finally affirmed after a certain period of time.

This sounds good at first, but it makes it too easy for new Congress to repeal legislation passed by the previous one. That would depend on the length of the trial period, and how late in the session the law was passed. That, in turn, would encourage delay at critical times.

Another problem is that complying with the new law might be costly. If you think it might be repealed quickly, will you, should you even be required to, comply before it's final?

BY, so far as I can tell, you're making one or both of the following assumptions:

Either,

1. The quality of Congress is declining so rapidly that the judgement of the Congress which reviews a measure, even with the benefit of hindsight, will be worse than the judgement of the Congress that enacts it.

and/or

2. That policies which are, in practice, so hideously unpopular that Congress would never get away with foisting them on the public twice in a row, are none the less a good enough idea that the public should go pound sand.

Otherwise, what's the problem with requiring measures to be re-enacted after we know how they work out?

I don't find 1 particularly likely, and I find 2 very distasteful

I read that post and mostly agreed with it. My general concept is that

A) comprehensive reform usually shouldn't be attempted--it is better to reform individual problems in most cases

B) if it is necessary to have comprehensive reform, the bill should DEFINITELY not be pushed through quickly. If we see deep health reform on a week or two of debate I won't be happy because there is no way that the details have been worked out properly.

But as a cynic one could say that a bill pushed through quickly could not be burdened with too many unnecessary/harmful amendments.
The longer it lingers the more it will get watered down/poisoned/weighed down/demagogued.
Both ramming-through and endless delays can be harmful.

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