What the frak is going on with the Cap and Trade bill?

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There is currently some wacky legislative maneuvering going on with H.R. 2454, the cap and trade energy bill, that puts a serious spotlight on the failure of Congress to make bills properly available. According to the New York Times:

House Democratic leaders late last night released a revamped, 1,201-page energy and global warming bill (pdf), clearing the way for floor debate Friday even though it remains uncertain if they will have the votes to pass it.

The House bill posted on the Rules Committee Web site has grown from the 946-page version adopted last month in the Energy and Commerce Committee. Sources on and off Capitol Hill said the bulk of the changes largely reflect requests from the eight other committees that also had jurisdiction over the bill, including the Ways and Means Committee and Science and Technology Committee.

The bill is only available online at the House Rules Committee and is reported as “text of the bill to be introduced.” Despite having a bill, H.R. 2454, that has been reported out of the Energy & Commerce Committee and discharged by eight other committees, there is now, suddenly, a new bill that is almost 300-pages longer — but it’s still being considered as H.R. 2454. Stay with me here.

Here’s the timeline:

Introduced – 5/15/09

Reported with amendments out of Energy & Commerce – 6/5/09

Discharged by Education & Labor and Foreign Affairs Committees – 6/5/09

Discharged by Financial Services, Science & Technology, Transportation, Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Ways & Means Committees – 6/19/09

Placed on the Union Calendar, Calendar No. 90 – 6/19/09 (This version is 946 pages)

Submitted to House Rules Committee – 6/22/09, 4:22pm (This version is 1,201 pages)

So, where along the line does the bill suddenly expand by 300 pages? According to the New York Times, the various committee chairs held behind the scenes meetings and hashed out a compromise with no allowance for public input. (What lobbyists were involved in those meetings?) And now we are expecting a Friday vote on a bill that has had no public hearing in a committee with jurisdiction over it and that is not yet available in the main engine of public disclosure, THOMAS.

This raises serious questions about how we expect Congress to disclose their activities to the public. Is a bill posted to the House Rules Committee and not THOMAS truly publicly available? While the bill may be available for 72 hours prior to consideration, the public does not have reasonable access to it. Nor does the public know how the final details were reached.

And that isn’t even the worst part. This, apparently, isn’t even the final bill. The final bill will be a manager’s amendment that will be drafted later this week! From a posting on the House Rules Committee, we know that the deadline to submit amendments is Thursday at 9:30am. And there is talk that this will be voted on on Friday. Thus, the final version of this bill will likely only be available for less than 24 hours.

Sunlight has been advocating for all bills to be posted online for 72 hours prior to consideration. It doesn’t look like that is going to happen here. If you think that Congress should read the bills they vote on, you can tell your congressman to both support the Read the Bill resolution, H. Res. 554, and to give the public enough time to read the final version of the cap and trade bill, whenever that is made available.

As Open Left’s Chris Bowers says about this process:

[Y]ou don’t get to know what is in the bill until it is too late. Further, you get no chances to improve the bill.

This is an unacceptable process and it needs to change.

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  • eric forsythe

    It,s sad that are news media is blinding us with michael Jackson death for a week and not sayinge anything about the cap and trade bill. Which is probally the most important bill ever wake up people.

  • Doris Coffey

    How can it be legal to pass a bill that has not even been printed? The next election should clear out the House and Senate, or we deserve what we are getting, and this will not longer be America.

  • CBPercy

    Having 72 hours to read a bill isn’t the answer.

    If members of Congress can’t write a piece of legislation in less than 50 pages and in plain English, then they need to go home.

    Let’s start by asking them to define “transparency” and “accountability”….or are these “just words”?

  • richard

    It’s amazing that our representatives keep voting against the will of most of their constituents.

    It is clear they do not represent the citizens anymore. Change must come from the voters.

    What’s more amazing though is that these prostitutes (their votes are being paid for by special interests) keep getting elected! Must be the “other” 80% of the electorate.

    RES

  • Bob in Texas

    Monica,

    You couldn’t be more wrong about what that subsection means…It means, if you meet the standards for energy efficiency set forth by the Secretary you will get a tax credit. However, the new standards will cause increases in gas, food, electricity prices that will far outway any “credit” you get. This bill will lower the standard of living, especially for the middle and lower class. This is a total scam to implement the carbon credit/offset system…By the way, Al Gore already owns a carbon credit company in Europe…He buys “carbon offsets” from himself and tells everyone he’s living “carbon neutral”. Well, now we will all be buying “carbon credits/offsets” just to drive and cool/heat our homes, and turn on the lights, and even BREATH. This legislation is tyrannical and will control & tax every facet of our lives all for profit. That’s why they jam it through without letting anyone read it.

  • Ryder

    The rules for releasing a bill to the public should NOT be a flat time (ie 72 hours). Rather it should be 0.05 days per page, and a minumum of 72 hours.

    A 100 page bill would require 5 days. A 1000 page bill, just under two months.

    This would have the effect of helping to keep a bill short and sweet, and scale the timeframe to the task at hand.

    RS

  • TexasRed

    Elections have consequenses. Those millions of Americans that figured “We need something new and different and this guy speaks really well” Well you got what you damn well deserve. It’s the rest of us, our kids and grandkids that now have to pay so you could feel good about Hope and Change.

  • srp

    Perhaps we should apply the rule Jonathan Swift had his Brobdignagians use in Gulliver’s travels: No law could be more than one hundred words long. (I don’t actually recall the specific number–I read it decades ago.)

  • Found via readthebill.org… I’m all for the idea of increasing requirements for transparency, but I’m so tired of people whining about how no one has time to read these bills. I read large portions of the stimulus bill before it was passed, and I’m not a Congressman with a staff of researchers and assistants, I’m just a concerned private citizen. Yes, let’s make Congress more transparent and accountable to the public, but let’s quit whining about how we don’t have time to read the 1,200 page bill in two weeks when we’re honestly too lazy to read a 5-page bill with 6 months of notice.

  • We need a Citizen Impact Study and a Consitutional Authority Study performed on each and every bill that gets written. Congress is doing a lot of things it lacks the Consitutional authority to do…i.e. the $4500 Clunker Bill. But since when has the Constitution ever stood in the way of a good pork barrel project, eh?

  • Elaine B

    MonicaS: Our “representatives” are so intelligent that they know exactly how much more the cost of food, consumer goods and services, oil, gas, and electricity is going to cost everyone under this bill so they can hand out checks to “low income” people to make up the differences in all of these costs now and what they will be under this bill.

    Isn’t it great to know we are served by these gods?

  • Elaine B

    Carter Wood: No, it’s still H.R. 2454. H.R. 2998 is rules for amendments.

  • Constitution First

    Like the “Stimulus” bill, the true intension here is; overwhelming the reader with a tsunami of BS and sci-speak, thereby discouraging any real digestion of the bill or it’s unintended consequences.

    This bill is not intended to be understood or effective, it is intentionally damaging, feel-good legislation with the added benefit of raping the taxpayer.

    Yeah, We got your change right here alright.

    America Held Hostage, Day: 159

  • Clark Taylor

    1200 pages! Yikes. Nobody in their right mind would want to analyze that. Few people even could analyze it properly in 72 hours, let alone the time allotted. I propose a different rule. 24 hours for every hundred pages. You want to make the bill longer? Fine. You have to have it out in the open longer. Let people (including the congress-critters themselves) have enough time to analyze it. Even 100 pages per 24 hours is pretty short. I doubt there are many lawyers out there that would accept a contract of hundreds of pages and only give themselves 24 (real, not billable) hours per 100 pages.

    Well, I can dream.

  • Kurmudge

    Does anyone seriously believe that the NRDC and Sierra Club aren’t re-writing the Bill, with assistance from those favored with political influence, to ensure a) significant new federal revenues, but b) sufficient giveaways to those utilities and companies (Duke Power, GE) who can most influence public debate?

    Seems to me we should stop pretending that Congress represents the people of this country.

  • Carter Wood

    Isn’t it now H.R. 2998?

    3 p.m. House Rules Committee meeting Thursday:

    http://rules.house.gov/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=4330

  • Steve White

    Having downloaded the 1,201 page bill, it is of course impossible to read through in its entirety to find all the goodies, earmarks and easter eggs hidden within.

    So how much bigger will it become this week to get enough votes for passage? And how will we know?

    While giving the public 72 hours to read the bill would be helpful to find the problems, giving us 72 days would be better. What’s so critical about the energy bill that we have to have it this week, as opposed to August or September?

    I recall that one of the presidential candidates last fall campaigned on openness. He said things like, oh, he’d wait five days to sign a bill, he’d like bills in the open, and so on. I do distinctly remember what he said. Who was that again?

  • Choey

    If this travesty passes, the damage it does should be hung around the necks of the Democrats like the stinking albatross that it is and affect elections for a generation.

    Call your congressman and tell him that.

  • MonicaS

    I found text of the bill on opencongress.org.

    In SEC. 432. ENERGY REFUND PROGRAM FOR LOW-INCOME CONSUMERS.

    (a) Energy Refund Program-…
    (2) At the request of the State agency, eligible low-income households within the State shall receive a monthly cash energy refund equal to the estimated loss in purchasing power resulting from this Act.

    Yes, the redistribution of wealth is upon us!

  • Montjoie

    We’ve lost control of our own government and probably need to start over.

  • Ditto, ditto and more ditto.
    Whatever I can do, I want to DO IT!!!!!!!!

  • Jim Durbin

    Him Camp- you would think that the staff would read bills, but they don’t. That’s the travesty. None of these guys know what they’re voting on, and neither do their staffs.

    Too important to be bothered. That’s why Read The Bill and attempts to post the bill online are important.

  • John Steelel

    “Hil Camp said:”

    Are you just reflexively anti-Republican or do you have a point to make? Are you sufficiently delusional to believe that only Republican controlled Congresses are influenced by lobbyists or did you just wake up this morning?

  • Kay Mejia

    If you have the original document posted at the Rules Committee website on Friday, June 20, 2009, would you please post it? I have software that will automatically find all differences between these documents and am very interested to know what these differences are.

    Thank-you!

  • Hil Camp

    Awaiting moderation?????????

    • Yes, awaiting moderation. You really don’t want to see all the spam comments from Russian porn sites we get.

      As to your previous comment, the problem here is the secretive process. How do you know lobbyists weren’t at the meetings that created this bill? It wasn’t formed in the open in a committee, so we don’t know how this version was created.

      The content aside, this is being created in an undemocratic process and the public is being cut out. I’d also be pretty annoyed if I were a backbench congressman who is being cut out of the process by a bunch of committee chairs.

      And yet again, how can you know that lobbyists didn’t write important parts of this bill from nowhere?

  • Hil Camp

    Paul;
    You can take a horse to water but you can’t make ’em drink. I looked thru everything you wrote. Did you find anything toxic about the bill, or its additions? If so, your argumentl would be more effective if you spelled this out.!

    As a lay person I would assume that congressmen have enough staff to predigest most bills and sift the bad and the good. Isn’t this supposed to be the way it works?

    I see a greater villainy when lobbyists write the legislation, as was common with the Republican Congress. That should be illegal.

  • Thank you for using the word “frak” in your subject line. My thoughts exactly.

    twitter: @noahkunin

  • JohnR

    Why are we surprised? The $800B stimulus bill was rammed through; just too darned urgent to waste time on frivilous “debate”. I don’t think a single congressman had time to read it. Nor did their Staffs.

    Now we’re being told that the Health Care Reform bill is just too darned important to delay on…there is debate, but the Democrats are trying to shove this through as quickly as possible, before it can be…you know…digested and criticized.

    So why should we be surprised that this hideous Cap & Trade bill (a transparent fig leaf for a $650B tax hike…on the middle class) is taking place under the rug.

    Anyone see a trend here? So much for transparancy.