Gibbs: Obama Has Only ‘Read a Decent Part’ of Health Care Bill

October 5, 2009 - 6:34 PM
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Monday that President Barack Obama has only "read a decent part" of the health care legislation that has been drafted on Capitol Hill.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs speaks at the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, Sept. 28, 2009. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(CNSNews.com) – President Obama has spent some time in the past few months rebutting critics of the health care legislation being debated in Congress, and telling Americans what he insists it does or does not say about certain issues such as abortion and whether people will be able to keep their current health insurance plans. But the president has only read “a decent part” of the legislation he is describing, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs revealed yesterday.
 
When a reporter noted at Monday's press briefing that there had been some discussion on Capitol Hill about whether members of Congress would read the text of the health care bill before voting on it, and then asked Gibbs whether the president would read the bill himself before he signs it into law, Gibbs said: “Well, I think he's read a decent part of the legislation that's been bandied around right now, and we should address this as with members of Congress when we have closer to a final piece of legislation.”

The question of whether lawmakers actually read the laws they enact has been a matter of public controversy this year, with people at town hall meetings this summer exhorting their congressional representatives to read the health care bill being debated in Congress.

In February, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) told CNSNews.com that none of his colleagues would be able to read the 1,071-page stimulus bill before voting on it. The final text of that bill was not made available to members of Congress or the public until late at night the day before it was voted into law.
 
“No, I don’t think anyone will have the chance to [read the entire bill],” Lautenberg had told CNSNews.com.
 
In July, as CNSNews.com reported, House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) mocked the idea of reading the health care 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?” he said.
 
Last week, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee which has oversight over the legislation, told CNSNews.com, “I don’t expect to actually read the legislative language because reading the legislative language is among the more confusing things I’ve ever read in my life.”
 
The language in such bills is “arcane,” “hard stuff to understand” and “incomprehensible,” said Carper.
 
On Aug. 4, when Gibbs was initially asked whether Obama would read the entire health care bill, Gibbs made a joke of the question.  “I don’t know what his vacation plans are currently,” said Gibbs.
 
As of now, one version of the health care bill has been produced by three House committees and another has been produced by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. 
 
The Senate Finance Committee is preparing to vote on its own version of the bill, but the text of that bill has not been produced.  The committee is planning to vote instead on a summary of the bill that some committee members call “conceptual” language and others call a “plain English” version of the bill.
 
The House version of the bill, which is available to be read, is more than a thousand pages long.