Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced three bills last week that would reshape the way Congress passes legislation, including by requiring members to write legislation more clearly and then actually read the bills before passing them.
A second bill would require legislation to deal only with one subject at a time. His third bill, the most ambitious one, would prohibit Congress from passing legislation that cedes legislative authority to the Executive or Judicial branches.
But Paul said Congress frequently pushes through bills that it doesn't read and that undermine Congress's authority to write laws. As he introduced his bills last week, he zinged House Minorty Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for saying Congress had to pass ObamaCare in order to learn what's in it.
"Too often in Congress, legislation is shoved through without hearings, amendments or debate," Paul said. "Elected officials are rarely given an adequate amount of time to read the bills in full, and unlike Rep. Nancy Pelosi, I believe we must read the bills before passing them into law."
Paul's Write the Laws Act, S. 1663, reads like an indictment of Congress — it says Congress has been giving away the power to legislate since the late 1800s, in large part by creating agencies and commissions that have the power of all three branches of government.
"Congress has unconstitutionally established a Star Chamber-like system of rules promulgated, executed, and adjudicated by administrative agencies that are functionally part of the executive branch of the Federal Government in violation of the due process guarantee of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States," the bill states.
The Write the Laws Act would prohibit Congress from passing legislation that delegates any of its power to any other entity, and says the Executive Branch can't issue any rules unless they are authorized by Congress.
It requires a report on every law passed that delegates legislative powers away, and says these laws "shall have no force or effect."
Paul's One Subject at a Time Act, S. 1664, would do just what it says — only allow one topic per bill.
His Read the Bills Act, S. 1665, goes beyond simply requiring that Congress have seven days to read a bill before considering it. It would also require members to write them better, including by making it clear how the law would look for legislation that seeks to amend existing law.
Many bills that tweak current law are difficult to fathom, as they cut sentences or even clauses and replace them with others, without giving the reader a full sense of why the changes are being made. This style vexes not only the public, but increasingly, members of Congress themselves — earlier this year, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) proposed a similar bill, the Readable Legislation Act.