Issue Background

Read The Bills Act

Your reps should have to read every word of every rule they impose on you. Tell them to introduce Downsize DC’s Read the Bills Act (RTBA).

Downsize DC’s Read the Bills Act (RTBA) would require any member of Congress who wants to vote YES on a bill to sign an affidavit swearing that he or she has either read or heard read the entire bill, word for word. 

Every bill must be read before a quorum in both chambers

It will always be easy for every member of Congress to hear a bill read because RTBA also requires a full reading before a quorum of each chamber of Congress. This one simple requirement will change how Congress operates. Most bills are…

  • Passed too quickly with too little understanding, debate, and deliberation
  • Too long, too dense, and contain too many subjects

The read aloud requirement will create a huge incentive to make bills shorter, clearer, and more focused so that Congress can better endure the fatigue of hearing them read! This quorum reading requirement is probably RTBA’s most important provision. 

RTBA ensures that amendments are clear

It will no longer suffice for bills to have language that reads like this…

"Section 415 (21 U.S.C. 350d) is amended in subsection (a)(2), by inserting after the first sentence the following:…"

Under RTBA, every amendment to present law must quote the existing law to be amended and the new section as amended. This is yet another feature of RTBA that will make reading the bill easier for both Congress and the public.

RTBA imposes waiting periods

  • After the quorum reading Congress must wait seven (7) days before the final vote.
  • The bill must be posted online during that period so that YOU, the press, the rest of the public, and watchdog groups can read the legislation too.
  • The vote must be publicly scheduled on the internet for a date certain, seven (7) days in advance.
  • These provisions will end the practice of legislating by surprise and give citizens the same time for reading and deliberating that Congress should invest.


RTBA has a mechanism to compel Congressional compliance. 

Please note, RTBA is a law, NOT a mere rule. The evidence is overwhelming that Congress doesn’t obey its own rules. Enforceable laws are needed because… 

  • Congressional rules can't be enforced by the courts. 
  • Properly written laws can be. 

That's why RTBA contains the following enforcement mechanism… 

Any citizen, charged with a crime, can successfully defend him or herself, if they can present evidence demonstrating that the law they are accused of violating was passed in violation of RTBA. The judge is then required to dismiss the case with impunity. No mere rule can be enforced in this way. Only a law can give citizens this kind of protection.

Tell your elected reps to introduce Downsize DC’s Read the Bills Act (RTBA) [create as LINK to the engagement].

Your position will be counted by each Congressional office,