Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 20, 2009

GO, SPEED READER, GO.... Conservative Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have threatened to do everything imaginable, and perhaps a few measures beyond imaginable, to delay progress on a Democratic climate-change bill. Most notably, Rep. Joe Barton (R) of Texas, arguably Congress' most enthusiastic fan of pollution, has raised the specter of forcing the committee to consider several hundred proposed amendments, all of which will fail, and all of which would be introduced solely to slow down the process.

To their credit, the committee's majority came up with a clever idea.

Democrats in the House Energy and Commerce Committee have taken a novel step to head off Republican efforts to slow action this week on a sweeping climate bill: Hiring a speed reader.

Committee Republicans, who largely oppose the measure, have said they may force the reading of the entire 946-page bill, as well as major amendments totaling several hundred pages. So far, Republicans have decided not to use the procedural maneuver, but Chairman Henry Waxman of California is prepared. [...]

A committee spokeswoman said the young man, who's doing door duty at the hearing as he awaits his possible call to the microphone, was hired to help career staff. After years of practice, the panel's clerks can certainly read rapidly, but she says the speed reader is a lot faster.

"A lot" is key here. Those of you who know me personally know that I tend to speak pretty quickly. But I'm a rank amateur compared to this guy, who speed reads professionally.

The new "staff assistant," who declined to give his name, told the WSJ, "Judging by the size of the amendments, I can read a page about every 34 seconds." That's damn impressive.

And under the circumstances, probably necessary. It's a huge bill, and by the speed-reader's estimation, he'd need about nine hours to read the entire thing.

Waxman intends to finish committee work by end of business tomorrow, so it can be sent to the floor by Memorial Day. That's certainly ambitious, if not wildly unrealistic.

Expect the speed reader to get a real workout.

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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So far, Republicans have decided not to use the procedural maneuver,

Well, then they really never had a legitimate complaint about not having time to read the stimulus package, did they? I don't see how this maneuver does anything but humiliate the GOP.

Posted by: Danp on May 20, 2009 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

Is there anything in the Congressional rules which state that the bill must be read by a human? Sounds like the sort of thing that a computer would do very well at, and if the Republicans complain because they can't understand text read at 50 kHz, offer to buy them some hearing-ear bats.


Posted by: dmsilev on May 20, 2009 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

I don't imagine that there is a House rule that requires the person requesting that a bill be read to sit through the full reading of the bill. It's something to consider adding to the rules that are passed for the next Congressional session.

In the mean time, I hope that Chairman Waxman will note for the record when the Republicans who demand that the entire bill be read leave the hearing room or when they don't bother to show up at all.

Posted by: SteveT on May 20, 2009 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

What a waste of time.

Clearly, the dems should hire 948 regular-speed readers (Daily Kos could muster that many volunteers in the DC area in a picosecond.)

Then each of them could read a page simultaneously, creating the world's first massively parallel climate change bill.

Posted by: wÒÓ† on May 20, 2009 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

I have the solution! Hire an auctioneer!

Posted by: MissMudd on May 20, 2009 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

948 pages?? I'll wait for the movie.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on May 20, 2009 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

We sure get things done in this country!

'nuf said.

Posted by: koreyel on May 20, 2009 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Is John Moschitta available for the job?

Posted by: Seth Gordon on May 20, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Ladies and Gentlemen your congress at work.

Posted by: thorin-1 on May 20, 2009 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

If it happens, it would be an instant YouTube hit for all political junkies.

Posted by: PS on May 20, 2009 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Clever, but hire more readers and rotate for breaks.

I'd love to see the look on the faces of the GOP bozos that spent days and weeks scraping together this goose shit only to have it read in 9 hours and discarded. I'd say time wasted @ a 15 to 1, GOP to Dem ratio is a reasonable victory.

Posted by: hopeful on May 20, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Get John Moschitta for the job!


(the "fast talker from the 1982 Fedex Commercial)

Posted by: Upper West on May 20, 2009 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry Seth -- missed yours!

(Still one of the best ads ever.)

Posted by: Upper West on May 20, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

There must be a few congressional aides somewhere who were top policy debaters in High school and/or college. Problem solved.

Posted by: The Sophist on May 20, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Bwahahahaha! I love Henry Waxman. He rocks. I want him to be in charge of the Democratic Party.

I will volunteer to help read. I read pretty dang fast, too. I will do it for free! This is the best idea I've heard all day.

Posted by: asiangrrlMN on May 20, 2009 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Chalk up more wasted money to the Republicans. How much will the speed-reader charge for his time? All wasted, so the idiots can smirk.

Posted by: MarkH on May 20, 2009 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

I think all proposed legislation should be read on the fllor of the chamber. Far too much legislation is passed with our politicians voting for something they know nothing about except they have been told by party leaders to either support or oppose. I find it a sad commentary on society reading the above commentss and people are actually objecting to a bill being read.

Posted by: emilyiverson on May 21, 2009 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

EVERY bill should be read in entirety before it's voted on.

Posted by: Dan on May 21, 2009 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

946 pages? Are you goddamn kidding me? You need an editor here, not a speed reader.

Posted by: pepe on May 21, 2009 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

I think every bill should be read. If they don't know what they are actually voting for what's the point of debating it?

Posted by: Jp on May 21, 2009 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Why not a law that says no portion of a bill can contain items not pertainent to the title of the bill? NO MORE PORK and BS!

Posted by: Rob on May 21, 2009 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Reading every bill out loud on the floor would be an even bigger waste of time and money. I think it would be far more effective to have all votes cast by members of Congress act as an explicit swearing under oath that they have read and understand the item they are voting on. If it is discovered that they did not read or do not understand what they voted on, then they could/should be prosecuted for perjury. At least that would provide some (very) slim measure of accountability.

Posted by: Bruce on May 21, 2009 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

It's so refreshing to read something which doesn't have to pretend to be fair--that "most enthusiastic fan of pollution" line was especially cute. Not to mention "deserves credit" for a plan to game the system instead of actually addressing the concerns of a significant portion of the population.

Posted by: Laserlight on May 22, 2009 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

Are you people for real? Most of the people in this discussion board have NO problem with Congress passing bills without even reading them? Waxman himself said something to the effect of "I won't pretend to know everything that's in this bill." That's disgusting. ITS HIS JOB TO KNOW IT. Not to cram legislation down our throats. These runaway lawmakers are thumbing their noses (pun intended) at the entire population and legislative process, and you sheep are chuckling along as they rip you off.

Posted by: brad dabs on May 22, 2009 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK



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