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Democrats Cleverly Thwart 'Nefarious' Republican Scheme to Have Congress Read Cap-and-Trade Bill With Speed Reading Clerk

6:35 PM, May 21, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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First off, let me concede that having a clerk read parts of the cap-and-trade climate bill Micro-Machines style is pretty funny, and far beyond the levity quotient one expects from Rep. Henry Waxman. On the other hand, this is the United States Senate, sir. Could we not spring for the actual Micro Machines guy (John Moschitta)?

Via TPM, here's the video:

But there's a downside to the humor at this hearing. Brian Beutler of TPM characterizes this act of political theater as Democrats' "extraordinary measure to combat nefarious Republican stall tactics."

Faced with the possibility that the GOP minority might require the committee's clerks to read aloud the 900-page Waxman-Markey climate change bill, or many of its 400-plus proposed amendments, the committee's chairman, Henry Waxman (D-CA), hired a speed reader. An quick tongued, acting-clerk, if you will.

Heaven forfend! Who would want to make the committee, which is supposed to understand the bill, actually listen to the contents of all 900 pages of it?

Even if the reading of the bill is a partisan "stall tactic" on the part of the Republicans, intellectually honest folks who want government to function responsibly would have to admit it's a pretty benign one-beneficial, even. The brouhaha over reading the bill is an implicit, disturbing admission that-yes!- your Congress will enact a 900-page bill heavily regulating the fundamental engine of the American economy and your life in unprecedented ways without ever having read it. Feel good about that?

Beyond TPM's take, which is predictable from a left-leaning site, the laughter inside the hearing room from lawmakers themselves is illustrative of the darkly comic state of legislative affairs on the Hill. Just remember: This is only the attempted reading of one tiny amendment by a speed-reading clerk, no less, and the reaction in the chamber is, "Ho, ho, ho, imagine if we were actually serious about this! It's ludicrous! The language is mystifying, the prose impenetrable. It'd be absolutely excruciating to read all of those words together, in a row. Someone once told me that's what my monocle was for, but I absolutely refuse to believe it. Now, Alfred, collect my topcoat and cigars, and let's head to the club for a brandy before someone else tries to burden us with the stewardship of the taxpayers' money. Read the bill. Perish the thought!"

To counteract instances of malfeasance on at least some bills (although as abdications of duty go, this one was adorable), get on board with Republican leader John Boehner, who has suggested a 72-hour period mandatory period of public review for bills before they're voted on. His idea is part of the Obama administration's open dialogue on open government, and you can vote for it to send it up the food chain for possible consideration and enactment. Or, you can swing your pocketwatch blithely and meet the boys for croquet on the lawn. Either way. Vote here if you're so inclined.