Defective by Design?


David Moore at Open Congress has an excellent post up explaining how the current life of a bill in Congress is riddled with disclosure holes. I can’t do more than say, go read David’s post. Here’s some choice graphs:

The reason is that the “Baucus Bill” is only a “mark”, not yet an official Senate bill, which means (to summarize reductively) that the digital text that constitutes the .pdf does not make its way off internal government web servers to the official website of the Library of Congress, THOMAS — and in turn, does not make its way to government transparency web resources such as GovTrack and OpenCongress. Before that happens, this mark of the health care bill needs to be reconciled with other Senate committee versions of the same, which will then be put forward for consideration to the U.S. Senate as a whole. Health care reform is leading news coverage & blog analysis of American politics right now, this is a major document in the mix, and there’s not a widely-recognized, user-friendly resource for online examination by the public at large. You should have better access to this info! You should have — at your fingertips — immediate, unrestricted digital access to the full text of any piece of legislation the very moment it’s released publicly by Congress.

The current Congressional process for publishing data is, to borrow a phrase from the Free Software Foundation, Defective By Design. As we see in many proprietary, top-down systems affecting the public interest, it’s insistently closed-off. Congress’ processes for distributing legislative info is fundamentally broken — it could and should relatively easily be fixed, starting now. Whether or not you support the Baucus markup or the House version of the health care reform bill, we hope you agree that the public has a right to read this important iteration & political volley in the process.