Harry Reid Won't Commit to Giving Public a Week to Read Health-Care Bill Before Senate Votes on It

June 25, 2009 - 5:38 PM
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D- Nev.) would not commit to allowing members of Congress and Americans citizens a week to go over the health-care reform bill before the Senate votes on it.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) at a pen-and-pad news conference, June 25, 2009. (CNSNews.com photo/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D- Nev.) will not commit to giving senators and the public a full week to read and review the final version of a health-care reform bill before he holds a final vote on it.

Reid confessed at his Thursday news briefing that he did not have “a lot of time” to read the 1,071-page stimulus bill before voting on it in February.

He was unapologetic, however, about the way Congress rushed that bill through before it could be reviewed by senators and the public, and declined to commit to giving senators and the public at least a week to read the final version of health-care reform bill before calling a vote on it.

“Looking back, I don’t know how much time people had," Reid said about the stimulus bill in response to a question from CNSNews.com. "I know that I didn’t have a lot of time."

Reid was asked the following question: "When the stimulus came up earlier this year members and citizens had less than two days to review the final bill before it was voted on. Will you commit to give Americans at least a week to review the full conference version of the health-care bill before it's voted on?"

The majority leader did not directly answer the question.

“That was a very hectic conference, we felt it was imperative that we move this bill forward to help the economy, and in hindsight we did that right thing,” he recalled. 
 
Reid did not commit to more time. Instead, he promised the Senate would “follow the rules.”
 
“We are going to follow the rules and do the best we can so that the new rules we have for transparency will be effective,” the majority leader said at a news briefing on Thursday.
 
“We have been putting things online. We’re doing so much more than we did just a year or two ago, so I think there’s no secrets, we try to be as upfront as we can, give everyone as much opportunity as we can to move forward,” he added.

The final text of the stimulus bill was posted on the Web site of the House Appropriations Committee late on the night of Thursday, February 12.  Both the House and Senate voted on the 1,071-page bill the next day--not providing enough time for members to actually read the bill.

During his campaign, President Barack Obama promised that Americans would have five days to review all bills before he signed them into law.  
 
“Too often bills are rushed through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them,” Obama said, as reported by MSNBC and placed on the Obama campaign Web site.
 
“As president, Obama will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House Web site for five days.”
 
When the 1071-page stimulus bill came up on Friday, February 13--less than 24 hours after its final text had finally been published--CNSNews.com reported that several senators said they would not read the  bill before voting on it, blaming the limited time between the publication of the final bill and the vote on it.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D.-N.J.) candidly admitted that no one in Congress would have time to read the bill before voting on it, and no member contradicted him.
 
“No, I don’t think anyone will have the chance to [read the entire bill],” Lautenberg said at the time.