“You can lead a man to Congress but you can’t make him think,” quipped Milton Berle in 1950. Last night’s House of Representatives’ approval of the 1,603 page, $1 trillion CRomnibus bill also shows you cannot make congressmen read. Unfortunately, as usual, politicians refused to let their ignorance restrain their power over Americans’ lives and tax dollars.
After spending much of the Fall re-applying for their current jobs, members of Congress returned to Washington and heaved all of their overdue work into a 15-pound pile of paper which no individual member had time to comprehend before approving. House Speaker John Boehner pooh-poohed any concerns about the process: “Understand, all these provisions in the bill have been worked out in a bicameral, bipartisan fashion or else they wouldn’t be in the bill.” And never before in American history have there been any problems from the deals that Republican and Democratic pooh-bahs carved out behind closed doors.
Congress in recent years has repeatedly heaped vast amounts of legislation and appropriations into a single bill. Sen. David Boren of Oklahoma observed in 1991 that congressional “bills are five times longer on the average than they were just as recently as 1970, with a far greater tendency to micromanage every area of government.” Each time such a mega-bill passes, the months afterwards are filled with congressmen caterwauling about how they were victimized by unnoticed provisions in the bill.
Ignorance of the law is an excuse only for the congressmen who voted for the law. And the thicker a legislative bill becomes, the more recklessly congressmen behave. Remember the ObamaCare bill, which, at one point, clocked in at 2400 pages.