I have to say that I'm curious about the tone of Steve Benen's piece about the apparent cluelessness of House members. He passes along a story about Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) who was apparently mad about the inclusion of the nonexistent high speed rail line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in the stimulus package (that it would be a good idea is a matter for another time). Benen then writes:
Now, I'm sure that was embarrassing for the congresswoman, but it's nevertheless an illustrative moment. Rep. Bono Mack probably heard somewhere -- cloakroom, Fox News, Limbaugh -- that this HSR project is real, and she assumed she'd been told the truth. If Spotswood's anecdote is accurate, she was certain it was true. Bono Mack wasn't lying to the columnist; she just didn't know what she was talking about.Now look, I'm all for smacking the Republicans around, but we can't pretend like this is a partisan thing. When it comes to legislation, the only people who really know what's going on in a big bill are the people actually writing the thing, i.e. the staffers who work on the Hill. Remember this moment from a few years ago?
It's hard to say if Bono Mack is typical of her caucus, but if she is, imagine how much better the political system would function if Republicans simply stopped believing their own misguided propaganda?
I'm especially talking about the part about a minute and a half in where Congressman Conyers says "Sit down, my son. We don't read most of the bills. Do you really know what that would entail, if we were to read every bill we passed?" Conyers and the others in that clip were talking about the PATRIOT Act, which was a great example of legislation that every Congressperson ought to have read before voting on it, but few did. They depended on their staffs and on the assurances from their fellow Congresspeople that there wasn't anything ridiculously bad (and they were wrong), added in a dose of "what will the attack ads look like if I vote against this?" and cast their votes accordingly. That happens a lot in DC, according to everything I've ever read. So why should the stimulus bill be any different?
Sure, it's an easy shot to take--a Congressperson says something is in the bill, finds out it isn't, and is chastened. But to take it the next step and act like this is a Republican-only problem is a little short-sighted to my mind.