Thursday, February 26, 2009

Urge Congress to read bills and to make sure we can too

I received this via e-mail and I wanted to share it, because I agree with this 100%:

Here's something terrifying: Congress passed the $787 billion Stimulus Bill and we're pretty sure the people who voted on that legislation didn't actually read it. And for sure you didn't have a chance to look at it, either. That's not the first time important legislation has rushed through Congress in a matter of hours. By hurrying to vote on these bills, members of Congress might miss an earmark or tax break that could have a lasting impact on you and your community.

Congress just passed the largest piece of spending legislation in history and no one Read The Bill. Let's make sure this doesn't happen again. Demand that they Read The Bill and sign our petition now:

www.ReadTheBill.org/petition

Read The Bill is a commonsense solution -- we want Congress to post all bills online for 72 hours before they are debated. That gives members of Congress - and you - three days to read legislation and consider how it could potentially affect each of us in our daily lives. A 72-hour rule would also give you a chance to let your representative in Congress know what you like, or don't like, about a bill before he or she votes.

Here are some examples of bills that were passed when members of Congress only had a few hours to read each one.

-TARP bailout bill (2008): rushed through Congress with few provisions for accountability

-Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008: Congress' Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout

-PATRIOT Act (2001): rushed through Congress and, consequently, expanded the federal government's ability to gather intelligence, engage in domestic surveillance and secret searches and detain immigrants with little restraint

Just yesterday, the House of Representatives approved a $410 billion omnibus spending bill. Unlike the Stimulus Bill, it was posted online for two days, which allowed members of Congress - and citizens, alike - to read and discuss the bill for a short period of time before it was considered in Congress. But even that is not enough. Let's remove the disparity and uncertainty that makes some bills available while others are cloaked in secrecy. Let's continue to allow everyone to Read The Bill for at least 72 hours before it is considered in Congress.

Thank you for your time on this important matter.

Sincerely,
Ellen Miller
Executive Director, Sunlight Foundation

10 comments:

Jason said...

I signed it.

Lisa Renee said...

Thank you!

Lawrence Moore said...

I wonder how many people read the petition before signing it? ;)

Seriously though, the harsh reality is, most things Congress votes on are never read. The average bill is 25 or more pages long, with some spanning over 100 pages. Members of Congress should read what they sign, no doubt, but often it is instead read by an aide, who then prepares a summarized version for their boss... who maybe doesn't even read that. Sad.

As an aside, one version of your post is circulating that blames Democrats for not reading the bill (like Republicans did - snarf) -- which is funny 'cause they wrote it. Why would they need to read it? ;)

Lisa Renee said...

Lawrence, perhaps a Congress person actually read the portion of the bill they were trying to promote but it's common knowledge none of them, Democrat, Republican, Independent read the entire bill. They rarely do, and they should.

They should also give the public, or at least those of us willing to wade through pages and pages of documents the ability to read it before they vote. It's a bit backwards to comment on something after it's passed.

I've been a member of Sunlight for quite some time, they are not pro or against either party.

Lawrence Moore said...

Lisa,

Thank you for your reply.

I didn't say so in my post, but I'm 100% in favor of more transparency in government. I therefore agree that a "viewing period" should exist for all pending legislation. Just think of all the bad law we could avoid if only we knew about it before it bacame law. In that spirit, I did sign the petition.

Will have to look a little deeper into Sunlight, when I have some free time. Might be something I'd like to be a part of as well.

Lisa Renee said...

Lawrence, I totally agree with you and while I never place total faith in just one source, I've found Sunlight to be very helpful.

One site that you might find useful is Capital Words it's done through Sunlight.

I signed up for their mailing list through the main Sunlight website. Unfortunately I don't have as much time to focus on national issues as I once did since most of my focus is on my local blog but I've found them to be a very informative resource.

Lawrence Moore said...

Thanks for the Capital Words link. I've added both it and Sunlight to my bookmarks.

While my blog is more targeted at Toledo area disability issues (howdy neighbor! lol!) I can foresee at least one future posting on local government and laws as they relate to universal access. I'd love to get our disabled community just a bit more involved in the political process. So much of what goes on here affects us in ways most "ables" would never understand.

Anyway, sorry for the topic drift. Keep up the good work!

Lisa Renee said...

Lawrence, I'm glad you drifted off topic, I've added your blog as one to follow since I'm always trying to help promote local blogs as well as extend the areas of discussion.

I don't have as much time as I used to when it comes to finding local blogs so I really appreciate you sharing that.

kateb said...

I'll sign it too....however they already know they should not have conducted matters this way.

From Nancy Pelosi's own website: "Accountability and Transparency

Beginning in January 2007, the new Democratic-led 110th Congress took numerous steps to begin to change the way we do business in Washington and to restore accountability and transparency to government. For example, the 110th Congress enacted the most sweeping ethics and lobbying reforms since Watergate, including banning gifts from lobbyists, prohibiting the use of corporate jets, and requiring full disclosure of earmarks; established an independent, bipartisan Office of Congressional Ethics; banned pensions for Members of Congress convicted of certain crimes; and strengthened the Freedom of Information Act to increase government transparency.

Now, the 111th Congress will continue to focus on government reform and restoring accountability and openness. On January 7, the House passed two key government reform bills that were passed by the House in the 110th Congress but were never acted upon in the Senate: the Presidential Records Act Amendments, which restores meaningful public access to presidential records by nullifying a 2001 Bush executive order, and the Presidential Library Donation Reform Act, which requires the disclosure of big donors to presidential libraries."

And we're all familiar with promises President Obama has made about transparency in government and making government documents available to the People prior to their being acted upon.

It's like telling a little kid to quit hitting his sister. He's been doing it a long time, he knows he shouldn't do it and you can be absolutely certain he's going to do it again despite a break in activity where he promises you soulfully he won't.

carl said...

Urge the candidate you are supporting for the U.S. House and Senate to be a Common Sense For Congress candidate. The 2010 goal is to elect candidates that will vote for a bill which will mandate posting all bills on a web site and doing away with earmarks. Go to www.CommonSenseForCongress.org and learn more. All parties need to be on board this grassroots movement.