Unhappy With Quick Vote on Spending Bill, Lawmaker Proposes More Time to Read Bills

Rachel del Guidice /

One conservative lawmaker, upset by the $1.3 trillion spending bill last month, wants to pass legislation that would give lawmakers more time to read bills before they vote on them.

“This isn’t a very big ask,” Rep. Tom Garrett, R-Va., told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

Garrett’s bill would amend House rules, requiring “any bill to be publicly available for a number of minutes that’s double the number of pages,” the website for Virginia radio station WVTF reported.

The spending bill, which was signed by President Donald Trump, was 2,232 pages long. The House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative lawmakers, said the bill was released fewer than 36 hours before lawmakers voted on it.

“We’re asking for two minutes per page,” says Garrett. “My understanding is it takes the average human about two minutes to read a single-spaced page, so what this [bill] would have done is give us 74.4 hours on the 2,232-page bill.”

“Theoretically, there is a 72-hour rule, but it gets waived, and … we’re trying to create a circumstance where in order to waive [time] to read it, you’d need a full vote of the House, so that one committee isn’t vested with all the power to waive the right of review—the duty of review, really—of all the members,” the Virginia lawmaker said.

If his bill were to pass, some lawmakers may still choose not to read legislation Congress is voting on, Garrett acknowledges.

“It may be the case that some people won’t review it, and candidly, if had 74.4 hours, what I would have done is gotten my entire legislative staff together and me … and we would have broken it up and tried to read it in entirety and discuss it as a group,” Garrett said, adding: “Even if you had 74.4 hours, that would mean that you read nonstop without sleeping or eating.”

The bill, Garrett says, is not a political stunt, but a way to help Congress be more productive and accountable.

“I would like to see this voted on, I would like to see it passed,” he said, predicting it could garner “bipartisan support.”