James Leroy Wilson's one-man magazine.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Don't even know what they're voting for


Today's Downsizer-Dispatch . . .

Media Alert: Jim Babka will be on Straight Talk with Jerry Hughes at 3 PM Eastern today. See below the signature for details on how you can listen.

Subject: Don't even know what they're voting for

Last week the Senate passed the Conference Report of the 137-page Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 2082). The big media story about the bill is its ban on waterboarding, which will apparently prompt a Presidential veto.

If so, President Bush would veto the bill for the worst possible reason, but it may give Congress a fresh start. The problem with H.R. 2082 is that it could just as well be called the Don't Read the Bill Act. Or maybe, the Not Really a Bill Act.

You see, the bill authorizes funding for the federal government's various intelligence agencies, but it doesn't tell us the amount that will be spent. That's "classified information." Of course, we don't expect an itemized list of the cost of every intelligence operation, but the people - and apparently, most members of Congress - aren't even allowed to know the total cost of the bill. If there is a "national security" reason to keep that information classified, then "national security" can be the excuse to justify all kinds of corruption and abuses of power.

Why can't Congress even know the total amount they're spending on our behalf? Whose money is it, anyway?

And why would any self-respecting member of Congress permit this to happen?

Probably because this is their standard operating procedure. They normally don't know what's in the bills they pass. As long as government grows, they're happy. As long as they can say they're "protecting America" by passing bloated, secret intelligence bills, they can't be bothered with the details.

Congress has a responsibility to make sure Americans are protected, but they also have a responsibility to make sure Americans aren't looted.

If the Read the Bills Act (RTBA) was part of our political culture, Congress would be too ashamed to pass bills like H.R. 2082. They would insist that an appropriations bill would at least mention the amount of money appropriated. Under the RTBA, Congress will be more accountable to the people, which means they will insist that the Executive Branch be made more accountable to Congress. Not only will Congress have a more thorough knowledge of the bills they pass, but the people will know seven days in advance when a vote will be taken to let their voices be heard.

To learn more about the Read the Bills Act, click here.

And please tell your Representative and Senators that they disgrace Congress and betray the trust of the people when they authorize spending without knowing how much they're going to spend, like they did with the Intelligence Authorization Act. Also, please tell them to introduce and pass the Read the Bills Act.

There are ways you can help spread the word about the Read the Bills Act and DownsizeDC.org through your blog or website. You can join the Read the Bills Coalition. Advertise the RTBA and we will link to you on our site. And if you have a MySpace or FaceBook page, you can add us as friends.

You can learn more about the Read the Bills Act Coalition here

And you can add RTBA Coalition code to your site here.

Here is our MySpace page.

And here is our Facebook page.

As part of our campaign for the Read the Bills Act, we monitor how many bills, and how many pages of legislation, Congress passes. In the first two weeks of February, the House passed 15 bills amounting to 858 pages. The Senate passed nine bills amounting to 260 pages. You can read descriptions of the bills at the bottom of the post here.

Thank you for being a DC Downsizer.


James Wilson
Assistant to the President

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