As news spreads that a consensus Wall Street bailout plan is being finalized, and leaders negotiate between proposals submitted from the Treasury Department, Senator Dodd, Representative Barney Frank, and others, two separate conversations are taking place. One is public, as the nation struggles to evaluate the urgency of the economic situation, and to understand the best course of action. The other, however, is not public, as the compromises and deal making -- the real stuff of urgent policy-making -- are held in the dark.
The Sunlight Foundation is calling on Congress to publish the proposed bailout legislation as soon as possible, to give constituents and lawmakers themselves as much time as possible to examine the specifics of the proposal before it's voted on. We will post the draft legislation to PublicMarkup.org as soon as possible, to give citizens a chance to weigh in on the proposal's specifics.
Congress faces urgent pressure from the Administration and from constituents to act. Regardless of the course of action Congress ultimately chooses, this is a decision that must be made in full public view. If citizens don't have a chance to evaluate the legislation, how can Congress possibly represent their constituents' needs?
The need for sunlight is especially required for urgent or emergency legislation. All too often, Congress praises transparency as a democratic value, but violates it in practice. Any lack of transparency in consideration of this legislation would be especially ironic since lawmakers have blamed the current crisis on financial malfeasance that was hidden from public view.
We have called the relevant congressional committees and have asked for copies of the new consensus legislation. As soon we get it, we'll be posting the text of the legislation online at PublicMarkup.org.
Now more than ever, Congress must represent the needs of all Americans, and to give everyone - citizens and lawmakers alike -- a chance to participate actively in the legislative process.
Before the bailout proposal is considered by lawmakers, it must undergo an even more important test: evaluation and assessment by the public.