We Need Online Review of Stimulus Legislation

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The Sunlight Foundation has long advocated that all legislation be posted online for at least 72 hours before final consideration. We believe that the consideration of the Stimulus Bill should not be an exception.  While there is currently no formal requirement to do so, the House and Senate should each ensure that lawmakers and citizens alike have at least 72 hours of online access to the Stimulus Bill before its final consideration.

Further, because the scope and public import of this legislation demand a measured and transparent process we strongly urge President Obama to post the enrolled version of the bill on WhiteHouse.gov for five days before signing it, in accordance with his campaign promise. While access and feedback from the public after final passage is not as effective as providing online availability of legislation before final passage, it would still give the public an opportunity to make their views known to the president.

It is impossible for lawmakers to read, much less fully evaluate, any complex legislation that is hundreds of pages long in the few short hours they often have between the time they first see a bill until final consideration. Worse, citizens may not have access to legislation until after it has been voted on, too late for them to have a meaningful response to legislation that may directly affect their lives.

Online access to legislation for at least 72 hours before consideration should be universally adopted by both chambers of Congress. Legislation of such magnitude needs the scrutiny of both legislators and American citizens.

UPDATE: Please join us in telling President Obama to post the final Stimulus Bill on WhiteHouse.gov for five days before he signs it. (It looks like Congress will ignore our call to post it online before their consideration.) Go to the White House’s contact form to urge President Obama to post the final bill as approved by the House and Senate on WhiteHouse.gov. Please do it today, as this bill is moving very quickly.

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  • I meant to say “no provision for publicly viewable comments” as whitehouse.gov obviously provides a form to submit comments.

  • The final bill was posted on the White House website for what should be over 72 hours of public review: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/arra_public_review/

    However, the bill was only posted as fragments in plain text and PDF with no provision for public comments, so the complete text has been reposted using Co-ment to allow for public markup annotations and better visualization of the most contentious parts of the bill:

    http://www.co-ment.net/text/824/
    (give it time to load, it was a 2.4mb plain text file)

  • Leo Nix

    Don’t sign anything unless and until you have read it. Given all the attorneys in D.C., that should be the most obvious
    thing thing to do.
    As an attorney, how many times has Barry
    O given that very advice to others?
    D’oh!

  • David Schweinforth

    I agree with the 72 hour view of the bill before they pass it if that were possible. The only problem if they did there would be such a public out cry and we would see exactly the total truth by the way if you haven’t seen it Obama seems to be a dictator and it doesn’t matter to him what we think. So my advice to all is to get ready for one world goverment in the where we have to subject to the changes or we don’t take part in the new world economy. Very close to the sound of the trumpet and a SHOOT and believers that are in the grave, and those who are alive shall be caught up to meet Jesus in the air and be with Him forever, are you ready.

  • Gary Babington

    I agree with the 72 hour inspection time for the public. It may have happened in another time back when the government represented the people and not the labor unions. America needs a Hero.

  • i think posting the spending package on
    line will give us all a chance to read it
    but they don’t want us to read it. i also
    agree vote them out, they aren’t working
    for us anymore.

  • Bud Parker

    So long as we continue to re-elect these buffoons to Congress that do not have America’s best interests at heart we will continue on this downward spiral into the Pits of Financial Doom. We Americans allow our elected officials to do whatever pays them dividends into their “Re-Election Campaign” coffers. Who holds members of Congress accountable for their actions? It certainly isn’t a Senate or House Committee. Nor is it any other Agency of the Federal Government.

    Wake Up America! Vote Out the Incumbents. They have proved to tolerate this payola among their Members, or are a part of it directly. Either way makes them culpable.

  • I like what Maurice had to say about our Democray:the need for each one of us to learn about legislation and to be in touch w/our legislators about our views before a bill is finalized. Otherwise, waiting until the proverbial horse has left the barn would seem to be too late to flood either the congress or the President with our opinions. Perhaps it makes more sense to offer our viewpoints at an earlier time in the process where it can have more influence.

  • As Jenna noted above, what is at issue here is the posting of the legislation that comes out of the conference committee between the House and the Senate. Since the two chambers have passed two different bills they will need to reconcile and agree on one bill for both them to vote on. We are calling on that reconciled bill to be posted online for 72 hours prior to consideration.

    Currently the announced conference committees members are Democratic Sens. Daniel Inouye, Max Baucus, and Harry Reid and Republican Sens. Thad Cochran and Chuck Grassley. Likely House conferees will include, but not limited to, David Obey and Jerry Lewis.

  • Ron Geskey

    Obama promised “change you can believe in” and transparency. But we can’t even find out what is in the “stimulus” bill, and based on some interviews I’ve seen, our senators apparently don’t know what is in it either.

    Since speed trumps doing it right (it’s ONLY trillions of dollars of OUR money which used to belong to me, my children, and my grandchildren and their grandchildren), congress should be able to debate and pass the bill in a few days.

    Also, apparently, bipartisanship means having the president tell republicans they have a role at lunch, then having select democrats hide away and
    write the bill in secret without republican involvement.

    That is definitely change I can believe in.

  • Maurice

    To the extent that this is about review, the House version of the bill and the Senate versions of the bill are on numerous websites. A simple Google search for “House Stimulus Bill Text” or “Senate Stimulus Bill Text” yields the full text of the bill, many of them highlighted by various watchdog groups across the political spectrum.

    So I agree, we are footing the bill we deserve to be heard. Read the bill being considered right now. Link to the sites that have the bills up right now and start your five day clock. You can still affect what goes into the final bill. Every American citizen (except for the 590,000+ DC residents) has a representative and two senators who will vote on the final bill. Instead of holding out for Executive branch time to review a final bill, why not pitch in and look at the current bill(s) that are being debated in the Senate and heading for conference.

    With respect to reforming Congress and the Senate and the Executive branch, I believe they should use all available technology to post information for the public. I just feel that we have a lot of tools at our disposal right now and the “People” are not using them. What I worry about is the tyranny of the majority on many unpopular but necessary things. Sunlight may disinfect but it also can burn and discolor. We elect representatives in our democracy and do not have direct democracy for many reasons.

  • Laurie Davis

    I agree whole heartedly with this idea. The American public has a right to know what this bill says and why we are imposing this debt on our children and grandchildren and exactly how it is going to work.

    Transparency…great concept

  • Sharon

    We the public, who are footing the bill,
    deserve to see the proposed stimulus package details online.

  • Wayne

    Publish a list of “pork” ammendments

  • Jenna

    Folks, the Senate’s version is posted on the Library of Congress website (as Amendment 570 to HR1) here:
    http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:SP570:

    An easier to read version is on Politico:
    http://www.politico.com/static/PPM110_stimulus_bill.html

    My thanks to SENATUS, who had this up on his blog (http://senatus.wordpress.com/) by midafternoon 2/8.

    We can hope the conference committee will also release the compromise version on Thomas prior to the vote — the searchable PDF is definitely the way to go!

  • J. Brooks

    Message sent!

    Passing this article on to a couple of other sources.

  • Done! And passed it on to my network. Why don’t you call Eli Pariser at Moveon.org and get them to send out a notification to do the same??? With their huge list, this could really get going.

    The other group to contact is TechPresident. Their network is smaller but transparency is something they advocate highly too.

  • Linda Chapman

    Excellent idea!

  • Joseph B. Murphy

    I am very concerned regarding the contents of the proposed House of Representatives version of the Stimulus Legislation being debated by the Senators. I would greatly appreciate a copy of the legislation mailed to my address or listed online for review. I am not happy with reading or listening to interpretations of the Stimulus bill as proposed by so-called TV prime time media experts (i.e.NBC,CBS,FOX,CNN) or reporters from NY Times,
    Washington Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times, etc. I am a college graduate with a M.S. in Biochemistry and feel qualified in forming my own opinion as to the merits of the proposed legislation.
    Your assistance or response to this request is appreciated.

    Respectfully,

    Joseph B. Murphy
    8327 Syracuse Circle
    Vienna,VA 22180

  • It’s great to see such ideas seriously being posted and circulating. I will post this to http://twitter.com/earthintelnet