The New York Times has a story today on President Obama’s 5 day bill posting pledge and how this transparency promise has both not happened as promised and evolved. Quoted in the piece is Sunlight’s Executive Director Ellen Miller noting the overall lack of utility in the President’s promise.
“There isn’t anybody in this town who doesn’t know that commenting after a bill has been passed is meaningless.”
While I’ve rightly criticized (as has Jim Harper) the breaking of the promise to post bills for comment five days before signing them, the reality is that no organizing can be done in comments that would make a difference after the bill is out of Congress.
The White House is now saying that they will start the five day count before the bill has made it out of Congress, stating that this makes for a more transparent process. This is relative nonsense as the White House is a part of different branch of government and the comments they receive on an unfinished bill won’t make it to the 535 lawmakers in the Legislative Branch.
What needs to happen is for Congress to require both bills and conference reports to be posted online for at least 72 hours before consideration begins. Right now there is a resolution in the House to do exactly that, H. Res. 554. If you thought that President Obama’s (now-broken) promise to post bills online for five days was a good idea, this is a far superior alternative. Since bills get written in Congress, not the Executive Branch, the provision of time prior to consideration allows citizens to voice their concerns directly to their representatives, whether over the phone, the internet, fax, or direct contact, during a legislative time frame that could actually effect the final product.
You can tell your congressman to support H. Res. 554 (the “Read the Bill” bill) here and you can sign our petition to Congress telling them to pass H. Res. 554 and give us all a chance to read the bills they consider.
(Update: The New York Times is asking if you support the 72 hour rule for Congress or Obama’s five day bill posting pledge. Go tell them what you think.)