Congress has barely begun and there are already two bills up for debate this week that have been topics of discussion on the Sunlight blog. According to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s Weekly Leader:
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 7, 2009 AND THE BALANCE OF THE WEEK
On Wednesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. On Thursday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. and recess until approximately 1:00 p.m. for the Joint Session of Congress to count the electoral ballots for the President and Vice President of the United States. On Friday, the House is expected to meet at 10:00 a.m.
Suspensions (2 bills):
H.R. ___ – Presidential Library Donation Reform Act (Rep. Towns – Oversight and Government Reform)
H.R. ___ – Presidential Records Act (Rep. Towns – Oversight and Government Reform)
H.R. ___ – Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (Rep. George Miller (CA) – Education and Labor) (Subject to a Rule)
H.R. ___ – Paycheck Fairness Act (Rep. DeLauro – Education and Labor) (Subject to a Rule)
The Presidential Library Reform Donation Reform Act and the Presidential Records Act Amendments both constitute important transparency reforms. The Presidential Library Donation Reform Act requires Presidential Libraries to disclose their contributors (this would be done electronically on the National Archives site). The Presidential Records Act Amendments would reverse a Bush Administration Executive Order that currently keeps presidential records hidden from the public indefinitely. Both of these bills passed the House in the previous session of Congress only to be stymied by the Minority in the Senate.
The Presidential Library disclosure bill was blocked in committee after Sen. Ted Stevens voiced his opposition based on what he called an unfair burden it would place on President George W. Bush’s current Presidential Library fundraising by mandating disclosure. The PRA Amendments were blocked by, not one, but two holds placed first by Sen. Jim Bunning and then Sen. Jeff Sessions. Hopefully, the Senate can work to pass these two important bills.