Congressman Admits: Congress Stupid

It was an astonishing admission.

Last week, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told an audience at the National Press Club that, not only had he not read the House health-care bill which would reorganize 1/6th of the U.S. economy, but that even if he had he would not have understood it:

"I love these members, they get up and say, ‘Read the bill.'  What good is reading the bill if it's a thousand pages and you don't have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?"

And so a leading legislator confesses that he is too lazy to read, and too stupid to understand, the legislation that he will pass judgment on and which he will expect Americans to live under.  Either that, or the bill as crafted is so opaque as to be effectively incomprehensible.

Sadly, both are true - the bill is incomprehensible and Congress is full of lazy ignoramuses (aren't we lucky?) 

But there may be something else going on here, something more malevolent.  On July 7th, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told CNS News, "If every member pledged to not vote for it [the health-care bill] if they hadn't read it in its entirety, I think we would have very few votes,"

This, too, could be a brazen admission of sloth (We would never get through all those pages!  There's no pictures or anything!).  Or it may be that Hoyer suspects, as I do, that if Congress actually read and understood this 1,000 page monstrosity, many members would balk at voting for it, so radically does it reconfigure American society.

Why else would House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- CA) and her allies rush it through to vote before it could conceivably be read?  And it is not only health-care reform that they have attempted to sneak into law:  On June 26, the House approved H.R. 2454, the cap-and-trade energy bill, aimed at punishing producers and consumers for their "emissions" (otherwise known as productivity) with high energy taxes and fees - in the middle of a recession, the legislative equivalent to taking a sledgehammer to our already fragile economic house.

How did such a fiscally ruinous piece of legislation get so far?  Among other sundry transactions, House leaders bribed Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Oh) with $3.5 billion worth of "renewable energy" pork for her state, tucked into a 310 page amendment attached at 3 am the morning of the vote.

Pelosi may or may not know that the president's schemes on health-care and energy will spell economic disaster; she may or may not care. But she certainly knows that the more these bills are understood by the American people, the more unpopular they become.  And so the rush, rush to vote, giving congressmen like Conyers a perfect excuse for their ignorance, and thus absolving them - in their minds at least -  of responsibility for the economic wreckage to come.

Allow me to make a radical suggestion of my own:  When leaders in the House of Representatives baldly admit that Congress is both willfully and hopelessly ignorant of the laws they expect us to live under, it may be reasonably argued by the average citizen that we are under no obligation to respect such a law; that its passing is a travesty; and that the body which committed it to paper is a joke.

If we were half the men our ancestors were, there would be outrage, if not revolt, over such open ineptitude and corruption in our government.

As it is, we sigh and shrug, as Republica weeps.

Matt Patterson is a National Review Institute Washington Fellow and the author of "Union of Hearts:  The Abraham Lincoln & Ann Rutledge Story."  His email is