ReadTheBill.org

That thudding sound you may have heard during economic stimulus debate in Congress didn’t just come from Rep. John Boehner flinging the 1,000+ page bill to the floor of the House chamber. It was also from countless lawmakers and staffers passing out face-first while trying to digest the thousand plus page conference report that was released before the House began debating it. The rush to pass the stimulus bill was not a rare occasion in Congress. In fact, many of the most important and controversial bills are rushed through Congress and members of Congress are left wondering what, exactly, they just voted on.

To correct this abuse of regular order, we’ve launched the Read the Bill campaign, located at ReadTheBill.org. ReadTheBill.org combines a bipartisan group of individuals and organizations seeking to make Congress more transparent. The key goal is the institution of a 72-hour rule for all legislation that comes to the floor for a vote.
This would require bills and conference reports to be made publicly available for 72 hours prior to consideration. The 72 hour rule will remove the suspicions regarding the legislative process and restore a sense of transparency and trust.

For years, the democratic process has been abused as bills have been rushed to the floor providing little time for lawmakers to do their due diligence by reading legislation to understand what they are voting on. While currently we see Republicans assailing the majority Democrats for rushing bills to the floor, we shouldn’t forget that not
long ago it was Nancy Pelosi, not John Boehner, who was calling for the then-majority Republicans to stop rushing bills and return to regular order.

There are a large number of bills that passed Congress in less than 72 hours over the past few years. Here’s a quick run down of three of these bills (you can see the case studies page on ReadTheBill.org for more):

* USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 – The PATRIOT Act went to the floor so fast that the Rep. John Conyers, representing the minority Democrats, claimed that the entire minority caucus was only provided with 2 copies of the bill. The bill passed the House the day it was introduced.

* Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005 – The conference report to this bill passed so fast that no one noticed that it contained a provision allowing Appropriations Committee members and staffers to look at anyone’s tax returns. Oops. Congress had to quickly pass another bill eliminating that section from the bill.

* Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 – Everyone remembers how fast the bailout bill passed. The first iteration came to a vote so fast, the House rejected it. Then the Senate version was on President Bush’s desk within two days.

To sign onto the petition urging Congress to enact a 72hour rule, you can go http://ReadTheBill.org.