Senate Democratic Whip Pledges to Read Health Care Bill Before Voting On It

By Nicholas Ballasy | July 14, 2009 | 6:06 PM EDT

( – Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told that they will read the entire final health care legislation before they vote on it.
Barrasso also noted his “great concerns” over the legislation, claiming that the Obama administration “force fed” the economic stimulus bill and the cap-and-trade legislation to Congress so swiftly that “nobody read” them.
“I’m an orthopedic surgeon, practiced medicine for 25 years in Wyoming,” Barrasso told “I always read the books before doing an operation, and I think every member of the Senate and every member of the House ought to read this legislation.”

“I want to read every word,” he said. “I want to read words of it on the floor of the House or on the floor of the Senate. I want to read words over the radio or television to the people of Wyoming. I think every American ought to know exactly what is in a bill that is going to change one-sixth of the economy in this country.”
“I have great concerns when I see the way that the Obama administration force fed the bailout that nobody read, and now they did the same thing with cap and trade, 300 words put in at three in the morning,” said Barrasso. “Everybody needs to read this bill.” asked Durbin if he would personally pledge to read the entire legislation before he votes on it.
“Yes, I did this on the stimulus bill. I know people asked me, ‘Did you read it, Senator, did you ever read it?’ And I said I would,” Durbin told 
“And I have to tell you that I look through it like a lawyer would, and you say, ‘Well that doesn’t say anything,’ and just changing punctuation can make a big difference,” said Durbin. “So, it has to be carefully read, and I’ll have others helping me, you know kind of looking into the detail of it, but I’m not going to vote on it unless I understand it.”
Begich took the same pledge as Durbin.
“I’ll spend the time reading the bill, depending on which bill it is, obviously there’s multiple, but whichever bills come to the floor, I’ll spend the time to read the bill. So will my staff,” he said.
He also urged all members of Congress to read the bill if they have time. “If they have the time, they should, but it’s up to them to make that determination,” he said. “I know what I need to do on these larger pieces of legislation.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) previously laughed at the idea of all members of Congress reading the entire health care bill. “I’m laughing because a) I don’t know how long this bill is going to be, but it’s going to be a very long bill,” he previously told
Barrasso was critical of Hoyer’s comments.   
“Well I think it would be a dereliction of duty for people to not go through the bill,” said Barrasso. 
“Does that tell me that Steny Hoyer doesn’t want or isn’t even going to allow there to be enough time for people to read the bill? The problem with the stimulus package that the president pushed through was not just that members didn’t read it, but America didn’t have a chance to read it,” Barrasso said.
“I mean, you want people all across this country, the eyes of the people on that, so they can see what is in it, and then ask questions and maybe come up with ways to improve it or say, you know this might not work,” said Barrasso. 
“All the brains in this country aren’t uniquely positioned here in Washington. We need people all around the country to have the time to look at the legislation, study it, read it, think about it, and come up with improvements,” Barrasso added.
Durbin explained what he thinks Hoyer meant by laughing about the issue.
“Well, the point he’s making, and I want to make too, is that just looking at the bill on its face, it may look like there’s no real change,” said Durbin.
“But once you’ve worked around Congress for a while, you know that you can change just one word somewhere, or change the punctuation – literally change the punctuation – [and] you can change a law completely. So, we do need help,” Durbin added.
“We do need people who really pour over every single line and give us advice,” he said. “But that’s no excuse. Members of Congress, before they vote on a bill, should understand what’s in that bill.”
Begich said: “The key on these bills is, you know, you get them in this formal packet. The most important part is the Congressional Record, which reprints it. Because it’s more readable, it’s easier to carry around. 
“The copy that I had, I actually read it, made notations on it, drove my staff crazy about pieces I wanted more clarification on, and that prepared me for the stimulus bill – to vote on it, and also to be part of the group that helped forge the final compromise on that bill,” Begich said.
“I think on health care it’s the same situation, as well as climate change,” said Begich. “These are significant pieces of legislation and you should know as much as you can about the bill, and even though I don’t sit on either one of those committees, I have a responsibility to read that bill.”