In the pantheon of great lines suitable for induction into Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations is Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 2010 comment about Obamacare: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

While that seemed outrageous, and even comical, to many people at the time, it has become an all-too familiar pattern for legislators who focus more on TV appearances, fundraising and their re-elections than on the laws they pass — often without reading them first.

The latest bank-breaking measure to narrowly pass the House (even some Democrats voted against it, including Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger) is a $3 trillion package styled “coronavirus relief.” It is more than 1,800 pages long. The disingenuous title is an effort to position it as something that will be more acceptable than honest descriptions such as “boondoggle” and “vote buying.” The package is supposed to help people struggling due to lost jobs and closed businesses, but it is more favorable to Democrat constituencies and left-leaning interest groups that rely on their party for bailouts.

There have been efforts, especially in recent years, to lengthen the time between when a bill is written (usually by staff members and lobbyists) and when members vote on it, giving everyone plenty of time to read the bill. The latest stimulus bill is only the most recent example of what happens when that doesn’t take place. Passed by the slim margin of 208 to 199 — an argument for a Republican House majority in the coming election — the measure contains significant amounts of cash for states with Democratic governors and legislatures, which have misspent taxpayer money and now find themselves in deep debt.

Commenting on efforts to allow more time for members of Congress to read bills before voting on them, Quentin Kidd, Department of Political Science professor at Newport University, has said: “I unfortunately don’t think that members of Congress will use that time reading the bill. They will use that time doing other things, and they will continue to do what most of them do right now, which is to pay attention to their staff or listen to what lobbyists say.”

The bill is “dead on arrival,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, adding, “It’s a parade of absurdities that can hardly be taken seriously.”

And yet part of it will be taken seriously. Even McConnell acknowledged the inevitability of more spending (he’s also up for re-election) when he told The Wall Street Journal another bill is probably necessary.

Whatever the Senate negotiates with the House will certainly add to the previous $2 trillion measure, which didn’t trickle down to some of the neediest individuals and small businesses, but contained horror stories such as checks going to dead people or to multimillion-dollar businesses or millionaires who didn’t need it. Rapper and reality TV star Maurice Fayne, aka Arkansas Mo, received $2 million. According to the UK Daily Mail, Fayne is accused of spending part of it on a Rolls Royce, a Rolex watch and child support, rather than retaining workers in his transportation business. He had applied for $3 million, so perhaps the government can claim it saved money. Thankfully, Fayne has been arrested, but will he be forced to return what remains of the money?

Anyone curious as to why in March the Gallup poll found public disapproval of Congress at 74 percent (it was 64 percent in April possibly because of the stimulus money) need look no further than the way the professional class operates. In too many instances, they act more in their own self-interest instead of the long-term public good.

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Cal Thomas is a columnist syndicated by the Tribune Content Agency. Email him at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.

Cal Thomas is a columnist syndicated by the Tribune Content Agency. Email him at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.

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