Earlier this week, John Wonderlich wrote about the promised 72 hour online posting of the House health care bill and that the fulfilling of that promise is setting a new benchmark for transparency — all major legislation should be available online for at least 72 hours before consideration. Last night, House Democrats posted the final Manager’s Amendment to the health care bill to the House Rules Committee web site (you can see it here), signaling that they are ready to bring the bill to a vote in 72 hours. This is yet another acknowledgement that the public and lawmakers are entitled to review all important pieces of major pieces of legislation for at least 72 hours prior to consideration.
A Manager’s Amendment is a partial substitute for the underlying legislation that often includes many last minute compromises to gain support from lawmakers on the fence. There is no required procedure for the public disclosure of Manager’s Amendments, but most are posted with the list amendments to be considered on the Rules Committee web site, usually the day before consideration.
Over the summer the House leadership took heat for releasing alternate versions of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) immediately prior to a vote. One sticking in particular was the release of the three-hundred plus page Manager’s Amendment the night before the final vote.
While the proposed 72 hour rule written into H. Res. 554 (the Read the Bill bill) does not cover amendments to bills, the decision to provide adequate time for the health care bill Manager’s Amendment is highly commendable. These long amendments are farther reaching in scope than other amendments and amount to an extra-final version of legislation that is not recognized in most people’s mental image of “How A Bill Becomes A Law.” Acknowledging that the bill’s language should be available at all stages for at least 72 hours before action is taken is an extremely important step in the right direction.