Back in January I blogged here about the White House failing to fulfill a campaign promise to put bills online for public comment for five days before signing them. That promise has rarely been fulfilled according to a study conducted by Jim Harper at the Cato Institute. The main problem, “[o]f the eleven bills President Obama has signed, only six have been posted on Whitehouse.gov. None have been posted for a full five days after presentment from Congress.”
Of the eleven bills, only one (The DTV Delay Act) could be somewhat considered to have fulfilled the five day pledge. This could only be somewhat considered because it was posted just prior to being presented to the President, which is a slightly minor point.
One larger issue is that the White House has placed some bills online for comment before they have been passed by Congress — which in some ways could be better because that is when a public comment period could alter legislation. The Omnibus Appropriations would have made the cut for the five day posting period had it not been posted while under consideration. Harper makes an important argument that this does not allow the public to consider the final product, “this doesn’t give the public an opportunity to review the final legislation – especially any last minute amendments.” For the bills posted while under consideration, the final version was never posted on the White House site.
Harper’s study is worth reading, especially for the useful chart showing all of the bills and when they were, or weren’t, posted for public comment. Also worth following, will be the continued Open House Project Google Group discussion on the utility of posting bills online for public comment after the sausage-making is over.