As Byron York just pointed out, the debt limit bill is being urgently rushed through Congress, and Members of Congress only have a few hours to read the bill. (It was apparently posted online at about 1:45 AM.)
It didn’t have to be this way. As leaders worked against a looming deadline, they should have protected Members’ and the public’s ability to analyze legislation before floor consideration. President Obama and Speaker Boehner both clearly agree with this sentiment; Boehner repeatedly promised 72 hours for all legislation, and Obama promised 5 days online before signing all legislation. Clearly neither one is going to happen.
Certainly, nobody would suggest that the country default on its debt in order to post a bill online for 3 days. But the exceptions to the 72 hour rule are reserved for emergency situations only. We’re in an emergency now, but it’s one of our leaders’ own making. Rank and file Members of Congress are, along with their constituents, left with only a few hours to examine legislation of vital public import, even as party leaders have specifically promised to keep this from happening. If, in the end, closed negotiations won out over public scrutiny, perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at party leaders’ rhetoric about openness.