House Violates 72 Hour Pledge Again


Two weeks ago the House of Representatives violated a pledge made by Speaker John Boehner to provide a 72 hour window for all legislation to be viewed by the public before it is brought to the floor for debate by voting on a bill to defund National Public Radio. Today, the House majority is again violating that pledge by voting on the Government Shutdown Prevention Act.

The Government Shutdown Prevention Act, a bill that deems the budget cutting bill passed by the House earlier this year to have passed Congress without the Senate’s assent, was introduced on March 30 at 1:13 pm. At the present moment, this bill has not been available for even 48 hours.

The House majority sent the bill to be approved for floor debate by the House Rules Committee under emergency rules. The NPR defunding bill was also considered by the House Rules Committee in an emergency session.

In a post detailing the 72 hour pledge breaking promise on the NPR vote I noted how the Republican majority circumvented their pledge by following a “Read the Bill” rule that they instituted at the opening of this Congress:

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.

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.

This rule is clearly meant to fudge the previous promise by Speaker Boehner to provide 72 hours of public, online exposure for each bill before it is debated. In case you are wondering if Boehner made a 3 day, as opposed to a 72 hours, pledge, please watch below: There’s more video here.

It’s worrying that the majority would repeatedly evade a pledge that they made to the American people to make the House a more transparent body. It is especially worrying that the majority would do this on two votes that are clearly not emergencies.

How was the defunding of National Public Radio an emergency requiring the circumvention of normal Rules Committee procedures and the 72 hour pledge? The current Continuing Resolution to fund the government expires on April 8. Why can’t the majority wait until Monday to vote on this bill?

The 72 hour rule is needed to give the public not only a chance to read the bills, but a chance to voice their opinion. This is especially important when bills are crafted and pushed forwards for political purposes. The public needs to be involved, but the majority is blocking that involvement for nothing other than the pursuit of quick political wins and message control. This is very disturbing.

Here is the original bill copy with time stamp in the lower left hand corner: XML_362-POST_xml