Transparency In Legislation through 72 Hours of Online Availability

Here at the Sunlight Foundation, we’ve long advocated that Congress post all legislation online for at least 72 hours before it votes up or down. The House and Senate don’t currently have a formal requirement to do so. But now, with Congress rushing to pass the $800 billion plus Stimulus Bill, the need for opening up the process could not be clearer. The bill’s size and importance should demand a measured and transparent process. Lawmakers and citizens alike should have at least 72 hours of online access to this massive spending bill before its final consideration.

Also, Sunlight urges strongly that President Obama post the bill on WhiteHouse.gov for five days before signing it. During the campaign, he promised to post bills online before he took any action. Ideally, legislation should be put online so that citizens have access and can give feedback prior to final passage. But if the White House were to post bills five days prior to signing or vetoing them, it would still give the public an opportunity to make their views known to the president.

It’s impossible for lawmakers to read, much less fully evaluate, any complex legislation that is hundreds of pages long in the few short hours they often have between the time they first see a bill until final consideration. And in most instances, citizens don’t get access to legislation until after it has been voted on, which is too late for them to have a meaningful response to legislation that may directly affect them. The Stimulus Bill, because of its magnitude and importance, illustrates clearly why the scrutiny of both legislators and citizens of legislation is so important to revitalizing our democracy.

Please contact President Obama and urge him to post the final Stimulus Bill on WhiteHouse.gov for five days before he signs it. It looks like Congress is ignoring our call to post it online before their consideration. We encourage you to please do it today, as this bill is moving very quickly.