Taxpayers want lawmakers to understand legislation before voting on it
By Congressman Greg Walden
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the day Gallup reported that the American people’s confidence in Congress has fallen to a record low, House Republicans launched a renewed push to highlight and enact “read the bill” reforms demanded by the American people.“Everywhere I go, taxpayers want to know why they don’t give Congress and the public enough time to read and understand these enormously costly bills, ” U.S. Rep. Greg Walden said. “This is a no-brainer. It’s time to let the sun shine in and change how the House operates.” House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has posted on America Speaking Out an idea that Rep. Walden a bipartisan coalition of members have been promoting to prohibit the House from considering any bill that has not been publicly available via the Internet for three days. This is the first idea Leader Boehner has posted on America Speaking Out, which was launched by House Republicans in May to engage the American people in building a more responsive government and a better country. “One of the reasons why Americans have such little confidence in Congress is because of the practice of rushing massive, expensive bills to a vote without giving lawmakers or the American people time to read them,” Boehner said. “This is the people’s House: ‘read the bill’ should not be just an afterthought – it should be the first and only thought.”
“Read the bill” reform is the first plank of the transparency initiative House Republicans released last fall. In September, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) filed a discharge petition to force a floor vote on bipartisan three-day public review legislation authored by Reps. John Culberson (R-TX) and Brian Baird (D-WA). To date, the petition has garnered 182 signatures – including five rank-and-file Democrats — 36 short of the 218 needed to secure a vote on the floor. Leader Boehner, a co-sponsor of the Culberson-Baird measure, has pledged that Republicans would implement “read the bill” reform should they earn back the majority.
“At a time when record high spending bills are passing the House, this resolution would give Members of Congress and the American public a chance to read legislation before a vote,” said Culberson. “This resolution will enhance public participation in our democracy and help restore the public trust in government by raising the level of transparency, order, and discourse.
NOTE: Americans are fed up with Congress passing bills no one has read. Speaker Pelosi and Democratic leaders have rushed hugely consequential and expensive legislation through the House without giving the American people time to review the measures. Here are just five high-profile examples:
• Trillion-Dollar ‘Stimulus.’ In one of the most infamous displays of brazen partisanship, Democratic leaders posted the text of their ‘stimulus’ bill in the dark of night well past midnight only to turn around and force members to vote on it less than 12 hours after it was made public.
• ‘Cap-and-Trade’ National Energy Tax. House Democrats passed a national energy tax bill loaded with special-interest giveaways no one had discovered because a 300-page, never-before-seen amendment to their already massive 1,200-page bill was unveiled at 3am the day of the vote.
• $500 Billion Omnibus Spending Bill. When trying to beat a path out of Washington last December, Democratic leaders rushed a 2,500-page, half trillion omnibus spending bill to the floor with less than 24 hours notice and just an hour of debate.
• DISCLOSE Act. At the last minute, Democratic leaders produced a new 46-page manager’s amendment to their 84-page campaign bill that was chock full of backroom deals and carve outs for special interest groups.
• SCHIP. The Democrats brought their flawed State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) bill – which shortchanged low-income children and expanded coverage to illegal immigrants and adults – to the House floor for a vote less than 24 hours after it had been unveiled.
Representative Greg Walden is the House Republican Leadership Chairman and represents Oregon’s Second Congressional District, which is comprised of 20 counties in eastern, southern, and central Oregon.