What’s the big rush? When members of Congress take up major issues—a $789 billion stimulus bill, legislation authorizing wiretaps, drug and medical device safety—all too often they start debating a bill neither they nor the public has had time to read. The Sunlight Foundation’s ReadTheBill.org campaign and OpenCongress believe that the full text of every bill should be posted online for a minimum of 72 hours so elected officials know what they are voting on, and their constituents have the chance to weigh in before it’s too late. This simple requirement will boost transparency and accountability in Congress.
To help you track which bills were rushed through the legislative process, we’ve created this page. This is a continually-updating list of bills in Congress for which the time from the full text being publicly available to the point of consideration is less than 72 hours. Here are the criteria used: We start the clock as soon as the bill was posted on the Web site of the General Printing Office (GPO), the agency charged with providing information about government to the public. For the ending time, we’re using the time at which the bill was first “considered” as provided by the Web site of the Library of Congress, THOMAS.
This is not a perfect system. We may miss bills where Congress changes a bill’s language so dramatically from the time it is posted on the GPO site that it is unrecognizable. We will try to capture those bills manually (See case studies.) We may also capture bills that have been available online elsewhere. But this timeframe reflects the amount of time the public has had to productively contribute input and feedback during the legislative process. Due to shortcomings in congressional data, it is not possible to determine when some of the bills listed below were first made available on the GPO Web site, so their exact time available cannot be calculated automatically. If you are doing research about a particular bill, be sure to click on that bill name and then follow the link to “See All Actions” in order to get a sense of a bill’s timeline before consideration.