Watchdog coalition presses House leaders on 72-hour reading period for bills

A broad spectrum of government watchdog groups sent House leaders a letter Wednesday urging them to require all bills be posted online for 72 hours before a vote in Congress.

23 watchdog groups from an array of ideological standpoints wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) as well as the leaders of the House Rules Committee to press for hearings on a resolution that would require all non-emergency legislation to be posted online for a minimum of 72 hours before a vote.

"As part of the Read the Bill campaign, we believe that it is fundamental to our democratic principles that Members of Congress, their staff, the public and the press have the opportunity to read and digest legislation before it comes to the House floor," the coalition wrote.

"We support the 72-hour online rule to require generally that legislation and conference reports be posted on the Internet for 72 hours before floor consideration in Congress," they added.

Pelosi has endorsed the 72-hour period for health legislation, but has been generally mum on whether she supports the rule more broadly for all legislation, which the rule would require. The letter notes Boehner's support for the resolution.

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The coalition asked Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) as well as Ranking Member David Dreier (R-Calif.) for a hearing on the resolution to "address  any lingering questions surrounding a 72-hour rule and move this important legislation forward."

The letter was signed by the following groups: All Things Reform, Americans for Campaign Reform, Association of Research Libraries, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest, Citizen Century Institute, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Demos, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Federation of American Scientists, Greg Fite (Alameda CA County Law Library), Institute for Policy Innovation, iSolon.org, Susan Nevelow Mart (UC Hastings College of Law), Media Access Project, OMB Watch, OpentheGovernment.org, Participatory Politics Foundation, Public Citizen, Public.Resource.org, Sunlight Foundation, and U.S. PIRG.