"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Oh, By the Way, Your Country Is About to Change Radically, But We Don't Know How

The immigration bill (or rather the competing bills) are festivals of obfuscation.   No one (again!) really knows what's in them, and we'll have to pass them to find out the hidden disasters lurking within.  Yuval Levin at NRO has this nugget today:

The Hoeven-Corker amendment to the Gang of Eight bill is essentially a new bill. It is almost 1,200 pages long. Some parts of it are identical to some of the provisions of the original Gang of Eight bill, some parts are very different, and some parts are slightly different in ways that could prove very important but difficult to understand in a hurry. But it has to be understood in a hurry. Given the length and complexity of this proposal, I think it is fair to say that not more than a handful of the senators voting on it on Monday—which is apparently when the vote is scheduled—will really understand it in any detail. There is almost no way any of the senators voting on it could have read it all, and it’s unlikely even their staff members could do so in a thorough and responsible way in that time. Only the people who wrote it will know what it says, and I imagine it was written in parts by numerous people from several Senate offices. That means there is probably no one who really knows what it says. It also seems likely that, if the amendment is adopted on Monday, the vote on the final bill would come too soon thereafter to allow CBO to re-score the much-amended bill, and so to offer some sense of how things have changed in terms of costs, economic effects, future immigration flows (legal and illegal) and other key issues. 
Is this any way to make such an important set of decisions about the country’s future?
Well, in a word, no.  How about a constitutional amendment saying that any legislation proposed by Congress must be published online in full and final form 30 days before any vote on it?   Who would be afraid of such a requirement?   We're changing the nature of our society (Obamacare) and the nature of our citizenship (immigration reform) basically with twenty-something staffers fresh out of law school pulling all-nighters to cut and paste legislative Rube Goldberg contraptions.   That ain't what the Founding Fathers envisioned.

Also, how about a constitutional amendment limiting single bills to twenty pages?   Is clarity in legislation too much to ask?      

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