Read the bill

Unfortunately, Republican Sen. Tom Coburn now appears to be backing off his threat to require that the 2,074-page health care bill be read aloud before the Senate votes on the scheme to take over a sixth of the nation’s economy.

The Oklahoma lawmaker — who is also a medical doctor — said Thursday there’s uncertainty about whether reading the bill aloud during Thanksgiving week would be productive. He questions whether Americans who might tune in would understand a line-by-line reading. Some GOP colleagues aren’t supporting the effort, anyway.

The senator should go ahead with his plan.

Sen. Coburn says he wants Americans and his Senate colleagues to know what’s in the bill. If hearing it read aloud leaves those who will be subject to these laws confused, whose fault is that — the readers, or those who drafted 2,000 pages of gibberish? Should the Senate enact life-or-death legislation that few who will be subject to it can understand? The question answers itself.

If listeners fail to understand the bill, let them demand that the sponsors explain it to them before voting. Every sentence. Every clause.

“The use of the Senate,” wrote James Madison in Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, “is to consist in its proceedings with more coolness, with more system and with more wisdom, than the popular branch.”

An oft-quoted story reports that Thomas Jefferson, upon his return from France following the Constitutional Convention, visited George Washington and asked why the convention delegates had created a Senate. “Why did you pour that coffee into your saucer?” asked Mr. Washington. “To cool it,” said Mr. Jefferson. “Even so,” responded Mr. Washington, “we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.”

When a dangerous course is proposed, delay can be a wise course, in itself. Every day given the people to consider this measure — whose only certain result can be to increase our costs along with the stranglehold of government on our health, our safety and our very lives — is one more day of hope.

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