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Republicans again fail to read something that deserved their attention

Many Republicans denounced the bipartisan border bill before bothering to read it. In recent years, this has happened far more than it should.


On Sunday, the political world finally got to see the details of a bipartisan bill on security aid and border policy. On Monday, Republican Rep. Nancy Mace went on Fox News to denounce the legislation.

But while the South Carolinian probably didn’t expect any tough questions, she was pressed on one relevant detail. Politico noted:

On Monday, Fox News host Martha MacCallum grilled Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) as to whether she’d actually read through all 370 pages of the legislation. Mace said her team is still working through it but argued that the bill keeps the border “wide open” with many “loopholes,” and that it “waters down” the asylum laws. “It’s exactly the opposite,” MacCallum responded. “That’s why I’m asking.”

If the GOP congresswoman had read the bill, she would’ve known that her claims weren’t true. But Mace didn’t bother, preferring instead to appear on national television to peddle bogus talking points on legislation she hadn’t read.

A day earlier, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana told CNN, “You gotta read the bill. I mean, don’t be ignorant. Read the bill.” That was good advice, which too many of his colleagues did not take to heart.

To be sure, Mace was hardly the only one who failed to do her homework before condemning the legislation. In fact, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, the Republican co-author of the bipartisan bill, told NBC News this week, “Quite frankly, I was surprised at some folks that said, ‘It’ll take me days and weeks to be able to read through the bill,’ yet within a few minutes they tweeted out their opposition.”

In other words, at least some GOP senators denounced the bipartisan package before knowing what was in it.

None of this came as a shock. Congressional Republicans might’ve demanded this border deal, but once it was ready, a combination of factors — Donald Trump’s instructions, the desire to deny President Joe Biden an election-year “win,” the GOP base’s expectations — guaranteed that they wouldn’t take yes for an answer.

But there’s also a larger pattern of behavior to consider — because as a matter of course, too many Republicans simply don’t read things that deserve their attention.

For example, many Republican officials didn’t read Donald Trump’s criminal indictments. Or the Mueller report. Or the Durham report. Or the Senate Intelligence Committee’s findings on the Russia scandal. Or the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the investigation into the Russia scandal.

During Trump’s Ukraine scandal, which led to the then-president’s first impeachment, a variety of GOP officials conceded they hadn’t read highly relevant documents that were directly relevant to the investigation. Also during the Trump era, many Republicans didn’t read their own health care plan — and soon after they also didn’t read their own tax plan.

During the Obama era, Republicans railed against the international nuclear agreement with Iran, even as some in the party conceded they hadn’t read the policy they were condemning. (The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank noted at the time, “This is legislating by reflex — a mass knee-jerk by the Republican majority in Congress. Those who howled ‘read the bill’ during the health-care debate couldn’t be bothered to read the nuclear agreement before sounding off.”)

There are explanations for this, of course. But at the heart of the matter is an unsettling truth: Many of the GOP officials who don’t take the time to read relevant materials are simply indifferent to substantive details. Why bother reading legislation and other policy documents when partisans are simply going to stick to lazy talking points anyway?

Whether such indifference is logical isn’t the core point. Rather, what matters most are the implications of Republicans’ reluctance to learn from the written word: How do elected officials in a democratic system expect to have meaningful debates about governing when too many members of one major political party choose not to read the documents that warrant their time?

This post updates our related earlier coverage.