U.S. Capitol infested with mystery bills

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Rafael DeGennaro (ReadtheBill.org) 202-544-2620 x102, [email protected]

Who you gonna call? ReadtheBill.org launches “Mystery Busters”

Washington, DC – ReadtheBill.org today announced the launch of the Mystery Busters initiative and urged the U.S. House of Representatives to reject four bills scheduled for floor action this week, saying there was inadequate time to read the four “mystery bills”.

The group named the supplemental appropriations conference report the “Mystery Bill of the Week.”

“As of Wednesday morning, negotiators have discussed the supplemental spending bill, but they plan to send it to the President by Friday afternoon,” said Rafael DeGennaro, Founder & President of ReadtheBill.org. “Let’s put this mystery meat on the Internet for 72 hours and let the taxpayers give it a sniff.”

The non-profit organization’s new Mystery Busters initiative urges members of Congress to vote against passage of any legislation or conference report that has not been posted on the Internet for 72 hours, excluding weekends and holidays. ReadtheBill.org used this standard to classify as mystery bills in the House the spending bills for homeland security and energy and water and a bill to open drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge bill, in addition to the supplemental appropriations bill.

“Mystery bills seem harmless but result in cost and corruption,” said DeGennaro. “If a member of Congress sees a mystery bill on the floor, do not vote for it! Carry it out on the Capitol lawn and leave it in the sunshine for 72 hours.”

The ReadtheBill.org’s Mystery Busters initiative will publish each week when Congress is in session a list of “mystery bills”, including one “mystery bill of the week”. ReadtheBill.org neither supports nor opposes legislation on substantive policy grounds. Rather, the organization seeks a transparent process that allows the public, not just members of Congress, to read bills. For the exact criteria and other details, see http://www.readthebill.org/mysterybusters.

“The Capitol is an old building. Mystery bills have infested the place,” said Rafael DeGennaro, Founder & President of ReadtheBill.org. “The only way to get rid of them is with the Internet.”

This first Mystery List looks only at major bills on the House floor. Future lists will add minor bills and Senate action.

H.R. 4939 — Conference report on Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for FY2007 — MYSTERY BILL OF THE WEEK. As of Wed., May 24 at 9 am, conferees have never met to discuss this bill, but the plan is to pass it by the afternoon of Fri., May 26. The House should reject this bill this week.

H.R. 5427 — Energy and Water Appropriations for FY2007 — MYSTERY BILL. The 226 pages in the bill and committee report became available online over the weekend, so 72 hours will not have elapsed until late night on Wed., May 24. If this $30 billion bill is brought up for consideration before Thur, May 25, the bill should be rejected. The House is scheduled to pass the bill on Wed., May 24.

H.R. 5441 — Homeland Security Appropriations for FY2007– MYSTERY BILL. This $32 billion bill has a combined 247 pages in the legislation and committee report. These were filed Mon., May 22 at 6:41 pm and became available online at perhaps 10 pm. This bill is scheduled for floor consideration Thu., May 25. The House should reject this bill if it is considered before 10 pm on Thu., May 25.

H.R. 5429 — The American-Made Energy and Good Jobs Act — MYSTERY BILL. ReadtheBill.org assumes H.R. 5429 became available online on Tues., May 23 around 5 pm, so the 27-page bill should be rejected if considered before Fri., May 26 at 5 pm.

DeGennaro emphasized that citizens should not panic or worry about permanent damage to the Capitol building. “Mystery bills can weaken the foundations of democracy, but we launched Mystery Busters just in time,” he said.

ReadtheBill.org seeks to pass H.Res. 688 before Election Day 2006. Introduced Feb. 16, 2006 by Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), H.Res. 688 would strengthen and modernize the obsolete, frequently waived “three-day rule” in the U.S. House of Representatives. H.Res. 688 has attracted a bipartisan group of 28 co-sponsors.

H.Res.688 would cover both first floor action and final conference reports. It would exclude the same categories of legislation exempted from the three-day rule, such as declarations of war and national emergency. It would also protect classified information.

DeGennaro said that the Mystery Busters initiative was separate from the drive for cosponsors for H.Res.688 and members of Congress could support either or both. “Mystery Busters is a short-term response. H.Res.688 is a long-term solution. We welcome support for either.”

Launched in January 2006, ReadtheBill.org is the leading national organization advocating for an open legislative process on the floor of the U.S. Congress. The organization is non-partisan and philosophically independent of the two major parties. It seeks only transparent process and neither supports nor opposes policies on their substance. Its flagship effort in 2006 is persuading Congress to post legislation and conference reports online for 72 hours before floor consideration. ReadtheBill.org Civic Action is organized under section 501(c)(4).