After blasting the Senate last week for passing a 600-page bill no one had time to read, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced legislation that would force the Senate to give its members one day to read bills for every 20 pages they contain.
"For goodness sakes, this is a 600-page bill. I got it this morning," Paul said Friday, just before the Senate approved a massive bill extending highway funding, federal flood insurance and low student loans rates.
Paul also introduced related legislation Friday, S. 3359, that would prohibit the inclusion of more than one subject in a single bill.
The highway-flood-student loan bill came up just one day before authorization for highway spending was set to expire, and two days before the interest rate on loans was set to double to 6.8 percent. But Paul said that is no excuse for rushing a bill to the floor without giving senators a chance to learn what's in it.
He also noted that Senate rules require bills to be held for 48 hours before they receive a vote so members can read them, but said the Senate failed to follow even that minimal rule.
"At the very least, we ought to adhere to our own rules," he said. "Forty-eight hours is still a challenge to find out everything in here."
The Senate voted 72-22 to waive the rule requiring a 48-hour layover, after Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and other Republicans raised a point of order against the bill because it came up too quickly.
Republicans also raised two other points of order against the bill last week in order to speed it to the floor. One, from Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), argued that the bill would spend $2.5 billion more than what was agreed as part of last year's debt-ceiling agreement and later enshrined in the Budget Control Act.
The Senate rejected Corker's point of order after Democrats argued that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says it will reduce the deficit over 10 years.
Corker, however, argued that the bill still violates the Budget Control Act, and said it shows Congress still does not have the discipline to rein in spending.
"According to CBO, this is paid for the old way, where we spend all the money in a year or two and then it is paid for over 10," Corker said. He added that voting against his point of order "says we don't have the discipline, the courage, or the will to do what we told the American people we would do to try to get our fiscal house in order."
The other point of order was raised by Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), who argued that the final bill as negotiated by House and Senate leaders included new language requiring an accelerated study on the threats posted by the Asian carp in the Great Lakes. Coats said that provision was passed by neither the Senate nor the House, and should not be included in the final bill.
But his point of order was also waived by the Senate.
Paul indicated that the Asian carp example was one of many new issues that could be in the bill, but would likely go undetected until long after it is passed.
"I passed two senators in the hall going back to their office, still trying to get out something that's been written in this bill that affects their states that they found out minutes ago," Paul said Friday morning. "Had they not found out about it, nobody would have known about it."
The highway bill, H.R. 4348, was ultimately passed 74-19 in the Senate, and was approved 373-52 in the House — all "no" votes in the House came from Republicans.
While the bill officially ended the debate on highway funding, flood insurance and student loans, Congress acted too late to have the measure signed into law by President Obama over the weekend.
Instead, both the House and Senate approved a bill extending the highway and student loan rate for one week, because several days are needed to prepare the bill for the president's signature.