Does the NPR Defund Vote Violate 72 Hour Pledge?


The House is set to vote today for a bill that would forbid funding for National Public Radio. The bill, while posted to the Internet on Tuesday morning, has not been available for 72 hours or more, which would appear to violate a pledge by Speaker John Boehner to afford the public this amount of time to read bills prior to consideration.

Earlier this year the House Republicans changed the House Rules to implement a Read the Bill rule that stating that bills must be available on three calendar days prior to consideration. Sunlight was very pleased to see the new House Rules incorporate language that strengthens the public’s ability to see legislation online before votes. We’ve also recognized that this rule might be artfully evaded through a variety of means, one of which is the “calendar day” definition.

In the case of today’s vote, the bill technically meets the House Rules as passed in January, but could, if voted on prior to a 72 hour period expiring (approximately 8 AM on Friday), violate the numerous pledges made by Speaker Boehner and other Republican leaders to provide a public, 72 hour window for all legislation. (Update: Sunlight’s previous call for 72 hours of online bill availability required 72 hours prior to consideration, not prior to a vote. Under that rule, the consideration of this bill has already violated that pledge.)

Here is Speaker Boehner at the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference earlier this year: This “calendar day” issue was previously pointed out by Sunlight’s Lisa Rosenberg, “the “third calendar day” yardstick for determining whether a bill is ripe for consideration could result in a bill being available for less than 72 hours. Sunlight has advocated using a “72 hour” time frame instead of three calendar days to prevent possible gamesmanship.”

There still remain many other potential ways in which the current Rule and previous pledges could be subverted. Sunlight Policy Director John Wonderlich pointed these out in a post earlier this year.

Sunlight hopes that the House decides to go with previous pledges of requiring bills to be online for at least 72 hours prior to a vote in the future.

UPDATE: Rep. Anthony Weiner just pointed out the failure of the majority to provide 72 hours prior to consideration of this bill. The presiding congressman gaveled out a parliamentary inquiry from Weiner after declaring his question of whether the bill had been online for 72 hours to be “hypothetical.” I’m not sure what is hypothetical about that inquiry.

UPDATE 2: Here is the video of Weiner making a point of order on the 72 hour rule.

UPDATE 3: Below is the original draft of the bill as submitted to the House Rules Committee. This is the earliest available draft of the bill. You can see the time stamp in the lower left-hand corner on each page. It reads March 15, 2011 8:21 am: House Resolution to Defund NPR