Rand Paul’s ‘Read the Bills’ Resolution Doesn’t Do Much

Paul announced his 2016 presidential bid Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Paul announced his 2016 presidential bid Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted April 7, 2015 at 1:18pm

Sen. Rand Paul’s proposal to require his Senate colleagues to read bills before voting on them would be almost wholly symbolic.  

That’s because the actual text of the Kentucky Republican’s proposal to change the Senate rules to require one session day to lapse for each 20 pages of a bill before it is eligible to be considered has a workaround.  

“The bills are thousands of pages long. And no one reads them. They are often plopped on our desks with only a few hours before a vote. So, I’ve proposed something truly extraordinary … let’s read the bills, every page,” Paul said Tuesday during the speech announcing his presidential candidacy in Louisville.  

In the case of omnibus deals on the verge of deadlines, however, Paul’s proposal would have little practical effect.  

Paul’s “read the bills” resolution provides for a point of order against considering legislation, treaties, conference reports and messages from the House if they are called up too soon, but it could be waived with the customary super-majority vote margin.

Paragraph (1) may be waived or suspended only by an affirmative vote of three-fifths of the Members, duly chosen and sworn. All motions to waive under this paragraph shall be debatable collectively for not to exceed 3 hours equally divided between the Senator raising the point for order and the Senator moving to waive the point of order or their designees. A motion to waive the point of order shall not be amendable.

In a full Senate, that’s 60 votes. Of course, that’s the same threshold that would be needed to break a potential filibuster and thus invoke cloture anyway. And Paul’s proposal also would limit the debate time for the point-of-order to a mere three hours, so it would be at most a speed bump. In addition, the Senate conducts most of its legislative business by unanimous consent. That would be unencumbered by Paul’s proposal to change the rules.  

The “read the bills” resolution was among the long list of policy proposals that Paul highlighted during his announcement speech Tuesday in a packed ball room at the historic Galt House hotel. Other domestic policy pieces included a balanced budget constitutional amendment and an effort to use tax revenues from repatriated corporate earnings to pay for investments in highways.  

Paul started with him reprising lines from his initial declaration of candidacy for the U.S. Senate, as well as his unexpected victory in the Republican primary for the seat he now holds. He focused on his message of seeking to upend the current system, warning against the Republican party nominating a “Democrat-light” in 2016.  

“Too often, when Republicans have won, we’ve squandered our victory by becoming part of the Washington machine,” Paul said.