Published on ReadtheBill.org (http://www.readthebill.org)

Disappointing House Dem reform packages: Less time than current rules

House Democrats introduced two major lobbying and congressional reform packages on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2006. Each contains identical language on making bills available to members for 24 hours, or three days if a bill contains earmarks. While the bills embody other worthy reforms, ReadtheBill.org believes that the identical text on making bills available is too weak. Most importantly, neither bill requires posting bills online.

THE BILLS
House Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) introduced a major reform package on Feb. 1, 2006 with 161 original cosponsors. This bill, H.R. 4682, addresses numerous issues. Title V concerns “Open Government”. ReadtheBill.org focuses on “Sec. 504. KNOWING WHAT THE HOUSE IS VOTING ON.”

House Appriations Committee Ranking Democrat Rep. David Obey (D-WI) introduced a major reform package on Jan. 31, 2006 with 132 original cosponsors. This resolution, H.Res. 659, addresses numerous issues. ReadtheBill.org focuses on “Sec. 5. KNOWING WHAT THE HOUSE IS VOTING ON.”

READTHEBILL.ORG VIEW
While ReadtheBill.org commends Reps. Pelosi and Obey for each including the section addressing this issue, ReadtheBill.org does not believe this section is strong enough. In particular, Section 504 would: (1) not post any text online; and, (2) mandate the fuzzy “3 days” instead of the clear “72 hours”. Furthermore, it is theoretically possible that a bill would be exempted from the three day requirement if its earmarks or tax breaks were NOT district-oriented (e.g., if they were industry-oriented or benefited an activity overseas).

SUMMARY OF IDENTICAL LANGUAGE
Bills and Joint Resolutions
The language would make it out of order to consider a bill or joint resolution until 24 hours after the bill and any accompanying committee report are available. This is presumably the usual availability to members of Congress only, not to the public or online.

If the bill contained “a district-oriented earmark or limited tax benefit”, it must be available for 3 days.

The requirement could be waived by a two-thirds majority of members voting.

Conference reports
Conference reports would have to be available to members for 24 hours (instead of the 2 hours currently required), or 3 days if containing an earmark or limited tax benefit.


FOLLOWING IS THE FULL TEXT OF SECTION 504 OF H.R. 4682 AND SECTION 5 OF H.RES. 659:

SEC. 504/5. KNOWING WHAT THE HOUSE IS VOTING ON.
(a) BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS–
(1) IN GENERAL.–Rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives is amended by adding at the end the following new clause:
“8. Except for motions to suspend the rules and consider legislation, it shall not be in order to consider in the House a bill or joint resolution until 24 hours after or, in the case of a bill or joint resolution containing a district-oriented earmark or limited tax benefit, until 3 days after copies of such bill or joint resolution (and, if the bill or joint resolution is reported, copies of the accompanying report) are available (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, or legal holidays except when the House is in session on such a day).”

(2) PROHIBITING WAIVER.–Clause 6(c) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives as amended by section 3(a) is further amended–
(A) by striking “or” at the end of subparagraph (5);
(B) by striking the period at the end of suparagraph (6) and inserting “; or”; and
(C) by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:
“(7) a rule or order that waives clause 8 of rule XIII or clause 8(a)(1)(B) of rule XXII, unless a question of consideration of the rule is adopted by a vote of two-thirds of the Members voting, a quorum being present.”.

(b) CONFERENCE REPORTS.–Clause 8(a)(1)(B) of Rule XXII of the Rules of the House of Representatives is amended by striking “2 hours” and inserting “24 hours or, in the case of a conference report containing a district-oriented earmark of limited tax benefit, until 3 days after”.

[END OF SECTION 504.]


Source URL:
http://www.readthebill.org/leg/hse/reforms/hr4682hres659intro20060201