The logistics of revising a 5,593-page document must be nearly overwhelming. I am curious how many people are involved in coordinating the document. I can only guess that the various parts of the documents are written by various parties, and then collated into a longer document. Is it known who wrote the various parts of it? Is there a person who has read the entire document?
Teamwork and Staff
No single representative reads all those pages, but the various committee members look at the parts which are their area of expertise. And then a representative on the Armed Services committee (from either side of the aisle) trusts that his or her party's representatives on the Agriculture committee got the agricultural matters right, and he or she trusts the budget committee people that they got as many concessions as possible out of the other side.
Various draft texts get debated in the run-up to a compromise, deals are made ("you vote for this aircraft carrier and we vote for that tax cut"), and staff assembles the parts of the compromise into one bill.
Excellent window into this issue in the form of a podcast of This American Life episode 250, act 2, 'Detroit is in the House'. The show is pretty much 'a day in the life' of a member of the Michigan State House of Reps, but includes a backstory on how as a rooky, the member actually DID read every bill, which led to a surprising outcome...but with experience he no longer does so, trusting input from his fellow party members.
But apart from that show's portrayal (trigger warning: it presents a liberal-friendly version of events) of the legislative process, I'd say any complex piece of legislation is the result of a process like that which generates the complex machinery/operations such as a car or school: a car's many systems are designed by teams and then degree to which they work for the intended, overall result is given a thumbs up/down by higher-up executives, or in the case of a school, the complexity is added over time as schools have taken on more tasks and specialized staff were added, and layers of bureaucracy/procedures and so on. With a big, mega-bill piece of legislation, there are separate components that were worked on in committees, those pieces are linked together, but also, the complex tasks and issues dealt with by a mega-bill have developed over time with past examples guiding those involved in making this year's version.
I think it basically works like this.
- Have your staffer confirm that the parts you asked for or were promised are really in there, if any.
- (Optional) Have your staffer confirm that the wording is intact from what you wanted.
- Vote how your party whip tells you (whether the parts you wanted are in there or not).
The late congressman John Conyers (Democrat from Michigan) was interviewed for the Michael Moore film Fahrenheit 911. The exchange I'm sure was shocking to many in the audience. I remember hearing gasps in the theater when I saw it:
Interviewer: How could Congress pass this PATRIOT ACT without even reading it?
Conyers: 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 that we pass? Well the good thing, it would slow down the legislative process. (laughs)
Rep. Conyers seemed to be annoyed by the question. Actually reading the bills he voted on seemed like a joke to him. And if you watch network news a lot, you will see the commentators occasionally reference this cynically, that no one reads these omnibus bills.
It's not their money. What do they care?
Some bills are pre-written by lobbyists. They're donors, politically you're both on the same side; you can assume their lawyers did a good job (and if not, they can't blame you). There's no reason to read those bills.
This partly USA Today story is about how State legislatures pass fill-in-the-blank bills without reading them. This one from Colorado Public Radio is about a congressperson submitting a bill on oil leases, written by a friendly oil company. It goes into some detail about why this is done.
How do politicians scrutinise bills that are thousands of pages long?
The answer is easy: they don’t. And being politicians, they naturally consider that a plus. They can claim to support any part they like and distance themselves from or outright condemn any part they don’t like or they think now makes them look bad.
They don’t even have to admit to not reading all of it, in order to condemn it — they can say “it was all or nothing, and we had to compromise”. The problem isn’t the size, that is a consequence or symptom, the problem is mixing so lumping so many unrelated items together. Or to quote Pelosi “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it”, to be fair she might have been referring to what the Senate would do with it. But even if so, that is just another symptom of the same problem. When you have a several thousand pages of unrelated law, it’s easy to slip in another paragraph or two.
Is it known who wrote the various parts of it? Is there a person who has read the entire document?
No and most likely eventually. Is there a politician that has read the whole thing? Unknown.
They do not, it is hard to recap the entire Swamp documentary in one answer, but basically most congressmen are cowards that do what the leadership tells them. They do not read the bills and do as told by the leadership.
If they do not there are consequences(they get blocked from funding and are mostly out of congress soon). And leadership is influenced by lobbies.
This answer is based on Swamp documentary, you can find a piece of it here.