Speaker Pelosi’s office buries Iraq resolution text

By Rafael DeGennaro, February 12, 2007 – 11:59am.

C’mon, Speaker Pelosi’s office, you can do better than this. Mostly, just by letting the committees do their jobs. Devolution!

As of 11:00 am Monday, Feb. 12, 2007, the text of the Iraq resolution was not on the website of the House Rules Committee (confirmed with their staff by telephone). There was no mention of the text on the front page of the websites of the Democratic Leader or Whip, nor on the front page of the Speaker’s website. So, I phoned the Speaker’s office and asked if the text were available. Yes, the person said. Go to the Speaker’s website, then click on “Current Legislation”. Then click on “Iraq”. You’ll see the text of the resolution. There are three problems with this:

1) The text was on a website where one wouldn’t normally expect to look for legislation, and buried even there. There’s no mention of the text on the Speaker’s home page, on her Current Legislation page. You have to know exactly where it is and click on a link called “Iraq”.

2) This is not the text of an introduced, numbered resolution. It’s not H.Con.Res. 999. It’s just some text. The site says it’s the text that will be considered, but one cannot really trust that for sure. It could be a moving target, still under negotiation. Instead, it should be posted as the text of a numbered resolution that has been formally introduced. That can still be changed, but at least one knows when it’s happening.

3) The Speaker’s office is not using the House Rules Committee well. As horrible as the Republican House leadership was at making bills available, they did evolve a standard, sensible place for the text that wasn’t up on the THOMAS system yet: post it on the front page of the website of the House Rules Committee. If the text was not there, it was not available to the public. One didn’t need to call the Speaker’s office or chase wild geese.

When it comes to availability of legislation, Speaker Pelosi’s office has to let go and let others do their jobs. The 100 hours is over. Resume normal behavior. Today, the blame goes to Speaker Pelosi’s office for not disseminating text in a timely way to the public. This is not open government. Moreover, it’s bad management. Speaker Pelosi’s office should assign this job to the Rules Committee and hold Chairperson Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and her staff accountable. Then, get out of their way. This little even former Speaker Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-OH) knew.

UPDATE: As a courtesy, I called back to front desk of the Rules Committee (Democrats) and told them where the text was on the Speaker’s website. The Rules staff thanked me for the information. Three minutes later, they called back to tell me that the text would be posted on the front page of the Rules Committee website. It was done by 11:10 am. (For the record, this rant is mine. The Rules Committee staff were very respectful of the Speaker’s office.)

UPDATE 2: It turns out that about a half-hour before the above exchange began, someone had provided the text of the resolution to the excellent website TPMCafe, which posted it at 10:37 AM the same morning here. The post has a link to a version of the resolution as it came from House Legislative Counsel, so the source was likely House Democratic staff. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with Democratic staff pushing out their message and documents to sympathetic websites. That’s smart politics, executed well (and TPM Cafe does a service by posting it). ReadtheBill.org’s concern is that this was done without any attempt to post the same information on the official websites of the House of Representatives — especially that of the House Rules Committee. The general public ought to be able to turn to one obvious place to obtain text of legislation as soon as it is available.

Following is the text posted on the websites of the Speaker and Rules Committee:

Concurrent Resolution on the President’s Escalation Plan

This week the House of Representatives will be considering the following Concurrent Resolution.

Disapproving of the decision of the President announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That—

(1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and

(2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.