The 72 Hour Rule is Still a Good Idea

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Dave Weigel points out that the 72 hour rule isn’t enough in a blog post, suggesting that putting bills online was a reaction to the healthcare legislation.

It may be the case that Speaker Boehner’s enthusiasm for posting bills online for 72 hours began with grassroots outrage over the healthcare bill (which, incidentally, was online for 72 hours before floor consideration.)

But the idea that bills should be digestible by Members *and* staff before they’re considered on the floor isn’t new, and has been growing in Congress for a long time. The issue has been one perenially championed by whoever is in the House minority, and one that probably got pushed forward more by having leadership changing hands often than it was by any particular legislation.

I’d also point out that we don’t have a 72 hour rule for all legislation. More like a 24-hours-and-one-minute rule. Despite Speaker Boehner’s many pledges to post all bills for 72 hours, that clearly hasn’t happened. And even if we get a 72 hour rule that requires 72 hours online for all bills, it’s still pretty loophole-ridden, and easy to evade.

Despite all of that, the idea of putting bills online before they’re considered isn’t going away. Without meaningful access to bills before they come to the floor, representation is diminished to party discipline, and trust in a few people who will decide the direction of the country.

The farcically secretive debt limit negotiations, like the shutdown negotiations, CR negotiations, and tax cut extension negotiations before them, have shown the public that they’re being excluded as a party from the most important decisions facing the country. And that’s an unacceptable state of affairs.

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