Two of the key House committees that have passed health care reform legislation are disclosing significant information from the committee markups on their web sites. The Energy & Commerce Committee and the Education & Labor Committee both provide links to all amendments offered and all recorded votes taken during the markup hearings.
This is a regular practice of both committees, but not in most other congressional committees. The Energy & Commerce and Education & Labor Committees are two of five committees in the House of Representatives that regularly post links to both amendments offered in markups and the recorded votes on each individual amendment. The other three committees are Agriculture, Financial Services and Judiciary.
We, at the Sunlight Foundation, have been advocating for a rule requiring all bills be posted online for 72 hours prior to consideration. We also care about the transparency in other areas of the legislative process, particularly at the committee level where a lot the actual work takes place. The advancement in committee web site disclosure over the past couple of years has been both phenomenal and frustrating. The level of transparency offered by these five committees is emblematic of what committee transparency should look like — even if we feel that it could be even better — and did not exist just a few years ago. There is no reason, however, that the other thirteen committees with regular legislative activities (this excludes Rules, Standards of Official Conduct and other joint or special committees with no role in reporting legislation) could not provide the same level of transparency.
Some of these other committees do provide some level of disclosure in the markup process. The Natural Resources Committee posts links to the votes on amendments, but not the amendments themselves. The Science & Technology Committee only posts amendments that have been accepted by the committee and does not include vote information. On the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee site, I noticed only one linked amendment and no vote information.
Those following the health care debate should be thankful that two of the three committees that marked up the bill in the House are exceeding their peers in online disclosure. The ability to have all the information on the legislative path of such important legislation is vital and it’s great to see the efforts of a few years of advocating for better committee transparency pay off.