A Reminder to Keep the Pressure on to Read the Bill

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Once again there is movement afoot for Congress to pass a measure that would require legislation to be online for 72 hours before debate begins. Minority Leader Boehner is urging Members to sign a discharge petition that would bring H. Res. 544, the “Read the Bill bill” Sunlight has long supported, to the House floor for a vote. Reps. Greg Walden (R-OR), John Culberson (R-TX) and Brian Baird (D-WA) originally filed the discharge petition in September.

Since then, there has been growing acceptance of the need to expose legislation to sunlight for 72 hours before voting on it, and Speaker Pelosi can be credited for slowing the process down on important pieces of legislation, including heath care and financial reform.

Still, voluntary assurances that bills will be online hardly give us reason to be confident that every piece of important legislation will be available for the public to read and respond to before debate begins. As the end of the Congress approaches there is an even greater risk that “must do” bills will be rushed to a vote. With that comes more opportunity for wasteful government spending, poorly thought out legislative provisions and hidden favors for influential lobbyists.

H. Res. 554 would help ensure that rushed bills become a thing of the past. A discharge petition may be the only way this bill comes to the floor for a vote, and if that is the case, we will gladly watch the bill become law. But a more thoughtful and deliberative method of getting a vote on this bill would be preferable. After all, one point of H. Res. 554 is to ensure there is time for legislation to be improved. It would be more than a little ironic if Read the Bill legislation could be made better after full consideration, including hearings and markup, in committee, but instead bypassed that process as a result of the discharge petition. Still, the discharge the petition serves a reminder that giving the public the opportunity to read the bill should be the norm, not the exception.

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  • We feel you on that one! Thankfully, bill pages are calculated given the very ample left and right margins so it’s not a “solid” 3000 pages. :)

    Most of the time the bill text is available much longer than 72 hours before debate begins. The reason we need a 72 hour rule is when they add a key additional 100-300 pages to either win an additional vote or to adress a last minute concern.

    We recommend our good friends at http://opencongress.org to keep track of the text of bills important to you and to see how much of the text is changing between bill versions on the way to passage or defeat.

  • old construction worker

    H.Res.”Read the Bill bill”
    I’m sorry. I’m not a speed reader. 72 hours is not enough time for someone like me to read a 3000 page bill.

    I would like to see something long the lines of 72 hours for ever 300 pages. that would give me time to read the bill, think about it, double check my thinking and then give educated comment to my representatives.