Reading Is Fundamental – Especially In Politics

As a child of the 70’s and 80’s I have vivid memories of being in school and attending book fairs where we would get to select books, buy them and take them home to add to our libraries. It was an effort associated with the well-known non-profit organization Reading Is Fundamental, the largest advocate for children’s literacy in the world. I am happy to say that it had the desired effect on me. To this day I continue to purchase books regularly, mostly hardcover if I can find them, to which the multitude of stacks around my house can attest. As the organizations name suggests, reading is absolutely fundamental. It allows us to learn and understand complex issues and formulate opinions based on the knowledge we gain.

Since I began studying politics, I have jokingly held the suspicion that many Democratic Representatives are not reading the Bills that they co-sponsor and vote for. If they had, how could they possibly vote for some of the legislation we have seen recently in regard to abortion rights? You can imagine my horror this week when I learned that my suspicion was correct.

Dawn Adams (VA-D) apologized this week to her constituents for co-sponsoring HB 2491 in the Virginia General Assembly that was fortunately defeated by the Republicans. The Bill would have allowed for an abortion to be conducted in the third trimester with only a single physician to certify the abortion. Even if the expecting mother was already in active labor. In the letter she sent out she admitted that she had not read the Repeal Act when she agreed to co-sponsor it. Of her grievous error in judgment Ms. Adams said, “I vaguely remember signing on to this, and I did this in solidarity with my colleague and as a symbolic gesture for a woman’s right to choose.”.

Is that the status quo for co-sponsoring a Bill? Vague recollection and solidarity with others who have already signed? As my father used to say, “If your friends jumped off a bridge – would you?”. Sadly, it appears Ms. Adams did exactly that and jumped to her potential political demise all due to her not taking the time to do the most basic task – reading.

A similar Bill was passed in New York that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law last month. How many people who voted in favor of the Bill that legalized infanticide up to the moment of birth read it? If they did read the Bill, then perhaps the question we should be asking is how could the self-declared party of morality pass such an immoral law?

It reminds me of another example where reading the legislation was not as important as getting it passed. Of course, I am referring to the Affordable Care Act to which then House Minority Leader Sen. Nancy Pelosi (CA-D) said “…we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it…”. Fortunately, it appears now that newly appointed Speaker Pelosi has had a change of heart in that regard.

The Democratic controlled House has proposed new Senate Rules under House Resolution 6 where the legislative text must be made publicly available for a full 72 hours before it is considered in the House. It seems to be common sense, right? Sen. Rand Paul (KY-R) supported a similar rule in 2010 in the Read the Bills Act. So, if Democrats now support it and historically so have Republicans – why is this rule not already in place? For all the talk of common-sense gun laws it seems ironic that we do not have common sense rules allowing time to read proposed legislation?

Questions like this matter and deserve to be answered. They matter as all political questions do. Politics is the legal extension of our morality through the legislation we pass. If we cannot preserve our morality in that way, then what hope is there for the soul of our nation? As Charles Krauthammer wrote in the introduction to his book Things That Matter, “Politics is the moat, the walls, beyond which lie the barbarians. Fail to keep them at bay, and everything burns.”.

Perhaps those Representatives responsible for proposing and passing the legislation we have seen over the past few weeks should have read those words. It could be the morality of our nation that is destined to burn should we continue to pass laws such as these.

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