“In politics, stupidity is not a handicap,” Napoleon reputedly said more than two centuries ago. Boundless ignorance is also not a handicap, as Congress demonstrated Monday night by approving a 5,593-page bill with no time to read it. The usual suspects are indignant at the sloppy procedures propelling $2.3 trillion in federal spending, including a last-minute $900 billion deal for COVID-19 relief. But reckless legislating has been standard procedure on Capitol Hill for almost three decades.
Democratic Sen. David Boren of Oklahoma observed in 1991 that congressional “bills are five times longer on the average than they were just as recently as 1970, with a far greater tendency to micromanage every area of government.”
Conservatives were outraged, and a Republican Leadership Task Force proclaimed in 1993: “A bill that cannot survive a 3-day scrutiny of its provisions is a bill that should not be enacted.”
Republicans captured control of Congress the following year, but that did not deter House Speaker Newt Gingrich and President Bill Clinton from jamming a 4,000-page, 40-pound agreement through Congress in 1998. Legendary “King of Pork” Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia declared, “Only God knows what’s in this monstrosity.”