Members of Congress will soon be asked to vote on a massive omnibus government spending bill over 2,700 pages long. See Rules Committee Print 117-35 Text of the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to H.R. 2471 (March 8, 2022) here.
Based on past experience, it is likely that the Representatives will be asked to vote on that massive bill without hearings, without being given a reasonable amount of time to read and understand the proposed legislation, and without any meaningful debate and deliberation on the bill.
Emergencies can leave people with little time to analyze and discuss how to respond to the situation. Emergencies often require prompt, decisive action. But emergencies do not justify precipitous, unthinking leaps into the dark. Emergencies do not justify or excuse our elected representatives acting like stampeding cattle that have been spooked. Moreover, proclaiming the existence of an “emergency” after prolonged Congressional inaction and delay and then insisting on precipitous action by our Representatives is particularly unjustified and obnoxious.
It makes a mockery of representative democracy if our Representatives act as passive rubber stamps for political deals made by a small handful of people without any transparency. And, it encourages the cynical and manipulative use of “emergency” legislation to obscure and camouflage policies, practices, and spending that would be unlikely to be enacted into law if considered on their own merits.
Such a practice is wrong and contrary to the basic principles of representative democracy. There is no excuse or justification for giving our Representatives and the American people “the bum’s rush” instead of a meaningful opportunity to know what exactly is contained in proposed legislation. “Hurry up, hurry up, don’t read the document, just trust me and sign it” may be appropriate for a confidence man, a huckster, or a shady business person; it is not appropriate for our Representatives. And, it is an insult to Americans and their right to have a meaningful representative democracy.
The routine requirement to enact federal appropriations legislation does not justify passage of proposed legislation offered without a meaningful opportunity for Americans and their Representatives to know and understand what is being proposed. Congressional inaction and failure to carry out its budgetary responsibilities in a timely manner are not legitimate excuses or justifications for applying “the bum’s rush” to the legislative process.
Passing last minute, massive omnibus legislation is not a solution to Congress’s dysfunction. It is a glaring symptom of Congress’s institutional failure to carry out its responsibilities in a reasonable, orderly, and timely manner. It is antithetical to, and destructive of, meaningful representative democracy.
It is not an accomplishment for a Representative to vote to pass massive legislation without hearings, without a meaningful opportunity to read and understand what is being voted on, and without a meaningful opportunity to deliberate and debate the merits of proposed legislation. Rather, it is a clear indication that a Representative is failing to adequately represent his or her constituents, and is failing to carry out his or her Congressional responsibilities in a reasonable manner.
Americans deserve better. Americans should demand their Representatives refuse to vote for legislation unless they are given a meaningful opportunity to understand and think about what they are being asked to vote for. Americans should demand their Representatives refuse to vote for last-minute proposals unless they have a meaningful opportunity to read, understand, and think about such proposals, and a meaningful opportunity to deliberate on, and debate about, the pros and cons of such proposals.
The upcoming midterm elections will provide Americans with the opportunity to show their displeasure with dysfunctional, ineffective Representatives. If Americans fail to hold accountable those Representatives who acquiesce voting for last minute massive legislation without adequate deliberation, then Americans will continue to suffer the negative consequences of such an outrageous legislative practice in the future.