Since the first preliminary procedural vote isn’t expected until Saturday evening, it looks likely that the Senate’s bill will see 72 hours in public, online, before its first vote.
Senators, their staff, and the public will all have a chance to digest this legislation before its formal floor consideration.
While the ReadtheBill.org effort has focused primarily on the House, the same banner was taken up in the Senate in early October, when Senators Lincoln, Bayh, Landrieu, Lieberman, McCaskill, Nelson, Pryor, and Webb wrote Majority Leader Reid, requesting 72 hours before an initial vote:
Every step of the process needs to be transparent, and information regarding the bill needs to be readily available to our constituents before the Senate starts to vote on legislation that will affect the lives of every American. The legislative text and complete budget scores from the Congressional Budget Office (C.B.O.) of the health care legislation considered on the Senate floor should be made available on a Web site the public can access for at least 72 hours prior to the first vote to proceed to the legislation.
By posting these materials online, Majority Leader Reid is strengthening and legitimizing the floor debate on the bill, and probably defending against some process criticism. He’ll also be raising the bar, showing that public scrutiny of legislation online should be a welcome component of Congress’s work.
As I suggested after Speaker Pelosi’s commitment and delivery on their 72 hour promise, if they can do it for health care — the toughest and most contentious of contexts — they can do it for every bill.