Reading the bill might not help you understand it

The catch phrase "read the bill," has been getting lots of mileage from anti-health reform protesters and even members of congress.

But here’s an interesting item from Politico that shows reading the bill, especially a 1,000-plus page monster like health reform, isn’t all it is cracked up to be.

"There’s a whole advisory and consultative system built into the legislative process designed to help members understand legislation, said Thomas Mann, a congressional expert with the Brookings Institution.

Lawmakers, committees and caucus leaders all employ staffs of legislative and policy experts to brief members and write plain-English summaries. There are also specialized departments, such as the Congressional Research Service and the Congressional Budget Office, that offer a variety of nonpartisan, expert services. Plus, a slew of think tanks and advocacy groups provide their own analyses.

Rather than asking if lawmakers are reading bills, Mann said, “the more critical questions are: Is someone reading it? Is it available in a timely way, [or] are things being written at the last minute, in the dark, with no one really aware of what’s been included?”

In other words, the advisory process needs time to work."

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