Congress can learn from ancient Rome’s laws for both good and bad

Congress has gone crazy. The House of Representatives and Senate write and pass thousand-page bills with little debate and sometimes before the bill is even released. As Nancy Pelosi once said, “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

A couple of laws are often proposed to stopped these huge bills from being rushed through Congress. One proposal is to establish a waiting period for all bills. The Republicans in Congress established a three-day waiting rule on all bills, but this rule has no legal binding. The second proposal that is often heard of is to limit bills to a single item. This would make bills easier to understand and would also stop Congress from inserting unpopular items into popular bills to sneak them through Congress.

If only we had some sort of precedent to establish a waiting period and ban omnibus bills… But in fact we do. Back in ancient Rome (98 BC), the Lex Caecilia Didia established a 17-day or 24-day waiting period (there is some debate on this) between the publication of a law and voting on it in the assembly. It also banned bills that included many unrelated provisions.

Thus, about two-thousand years ago, the Romans found a solution to our current problem. Unfortunately, laws like this did not save the republic. Similarly, a law like this for America might help, but cannot solve our problem: the desire for more government.

– Michael E. Newton is the author of the highly acclaimed The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society’s Descent into Tyranny. His newest book, Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers: The Fight for Control of the American Revolution, was released by Eleftheria Publishing in July.

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