We’re gonna ask you again: read the bill!

As a guy who likes transparency in government but seems to be greeted with an ever-increasing amount of sleight-of-hand, it’s not surprising that the discharge petition for H. Res 554 has pretty much stalled out at 181 members, including just one member of Maryland’s delegation (Roscoe Bartlett of the 6th District).

I was alerted to this discharge petition last week by Nisha Thompson of the Sunlight Foundation, who apparently reads my website (thanks Nisha!) and noticed I talked about this before:

You have posted about the idea that members of Congress should read the bill before they debate them. The Sunlight Foundation has been advocating for the passage of legislation called H. Res 554 – this is essentially Read the Bill legislation. It would change the House rules, to require that legislation be posted for 72 hours before debate so that the public and members of Congress can read the bill. If legislation is read then debate is based on what is exactly in the bill so that the quality of the legislation can be determined before it passes. 

There has been a lot of momentum around this legislation and last week a member of the House filed a discharge petition that would make H. Res. 554 have to be scheduled for a floor vote. We need 218 signatures and are now at 178 181. If everyone who supports the 72 hour rule calls their member of Congress and asks them to sign the discharge petition, we can get the Read the Bill legislation a vote!

I updated their number to the current number, and today found out that a growing coalition of groups is uniting behind this concept, particularly in light of the possibility Obamacare may be piggybacked onto another House-passed bill in order to clear the cloture hurdle in the Senate.

(In regard to) amending the Rules of Congress to require that legislation is available on the Internet for 72 hours before consideration by the House: The House and Senate Democratic Leadership apparently do not want colleagues and the public to see legislation before they vote on it.

We urge you to call your Congressman and ask that he or she sign the Discharge Petition in favor of passing a mandatory 72-hour reading period for all non-emergency legislation. Past and future bills, such as the stimulus package and healthcare legislation, should never be passed without Congressmen and citizens being able to read such bills in their entirety.

A Bipartisan bill that would require major legislation to be posted on the web for public review for 72 hours before coming to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives is stalled. Unless Members of Congress from both parties hear from their constituents that they want it passed, it is likely that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have her way and the bill will be buried.

The coalition, which includes nearly 20 advocacy groups including Americans for Prosperity, Citizens Against Government Waste, Americans for Tax Reform, and Americans for Limited Government, among others, concluded by citing a number of polls which show a vast percentage of Americans (a recent Zogby poll placed it at 91%) want Congress to allow the public 72 hours’ access to legislation pending in Congress. Yet the group claims that:

Democrat leaders disagree. They think that if people know what is actually being proposed, they will oppose it, and they say that giving the public and their colleagues a 72 hour “reading period” will slow bills down too much – bills like the massive healthcare reform bill now winding its way through Congress.

Barack Obama campaigned last year for transparency and openness in government. Yet the House bill, sponsored by 67 Republicans and 31 Democrats, has not only not been brought to a floor vote by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but the Democrat Leadership is doing its best to keep more Democrats from joining a discharge petition to force the bill to the floor.

(But) Democrats are not the only offenders. In 2003, when Republicans controlled the Congress they jammed through the huge prescription drug entitlement bill late at night when most members had not had a chance to read it.

Damn straight we will oppose it because Americans are pretty much fed up with Congress spending trillions we don’t have on projects and programs of dubious benefit. And I don’t see the “independent” Frank Kratovil’s name on the dotted line in support of this bill yet. (Those of you across the Mason-Dixon line in Delaware should be pleased to know that Mike Castle was the third to sign. Now if someone could get his mind straight on cap-and-tax we could get somewhere, but I digress.)

Congress is in charge of creating the budget, but it is also supposed to be a body representative of the people. Maybe not every person cares about where their tax dollars are spent, but I do and there’s a huge number of Americans who agree with me and have unburied their heads out of the sand over the last few months, deciding enough is enough.

When over 90% of Americans believe that there’s a lack of transparency in Congress, that to me seems like a very bipartisan kind of majority. It seems the only people who aren’t for this are the ones who have something to hide, and the rush to get these things done with as little public discussion as possible suggests Congress is hiding a lot – as one example don’t forget the President’s original goal was to have Obamacare passed before the August recess. All for a bill which wasn’t slated to take effect until safely after his re-election campaign in 2013!

So the assignment for tomorrow, kids, is to call your Congressman and tell him or her to add their name to the discharge petition. (If they have, take the moment to thank them for doing so.) It’s highly doubtful House leaders would otherwise allow this resolution out of committee so we need to push them into action some other way.

Again, Congress, get your act together and read the bills!

Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.