Go, Speed Reader, Go

GO, SPEED READER, GO…. Conservative Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have threatened to do everything imaginable, and perhaps a few measures beyond imaginable, to delay progress on a Democratic climate-change bill. Most notably, Rep. Joe Barton (R) of Texas, arguably Congress’ most enthusiastic fan of pollution, has raised the specter of forcing the committee to consider several hundred proposed amendments, all of which will fail, and all of which would be introduced solely to slow down the process.

To their credit, the committee’s majority came up with a clever idea.

Democrats in the House Energy and Commerce Committee have taken a novel step to head off Republican efforts to slow action this week on a sweeping climate bill: Hiring a speed reader.

Committee Republicans, who largely oppose the measure, have said they may force the reading of the entire 946-page bill, as well as major amendments totaling several hundred pages. So far, Republicans have decided not to use the procedural maneuver, but Chairman Henry Waxman of California is prepared. […]

A committee spokeswoman said the young man, who’s doing door duty at the hearing as he awaits his possible call to the microphone, was hired to help career staff. After years of practice, the panel’s clerks can certainly read rapidly, but she says the speed reader is a lot faster.

“A lot” is key here. Those of you who know me personally know that I tend to speak pretty quickly. But I’m a rank amateur compared to this guy, who speed reads professionally.

The new “staff assistant,” who declined to give his name, told the WSJ, “Judging by the size of the amendments, I can read a page about every 34 seconds.” That’s damn impressive.

And under the circumstances, probably necessary. It’s a huge bill, and by the speed-reader’s estimation, he’d need about nine hours to read the entire thing.

Waxman intends to finish committee work by end of business tomorrow, so it can be sent to the floor by Memorial Day. That’s certainly ambitious, if not wildly unrealistic.

Expect the speed reader to get a real workout.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.