House GOP Breaks Promise to Post Bills Online for 3 Days Before Vote

September 26, 2011 - 4:53 PM
Boehner Economy

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio addressing the Economic Club of Washington, in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CNSNews.com) –  House Republicans broke a promise they included in their 2010 Pledge to America to post the text of all bills online at least three days before bringing them to the floor for a vote.

Early last Friday, the House voted to pass a continuing resolution (CR) measure to fund the government that had been posted online less than five hours before the vote.

In their Pledge to America, the House Republicans had said: “We will govern differently than past Congresses of both parties,” the House Republicans stated in their Pledge to America. We will require that every bill contain a citation of Constitutional authority. We will give all Representatives and citizens at least three days to read the bill before a vote.

“We will make sure that the floor schedule and operations reflect the priority of revitalizing the economy, and ensure there is an open process that makes it easier – not harder – to eliminate unnecessary spending on any legislation that spends the people’s money.”

Later in the same Pledge to America, the Republicans said: "We will ensure that bills are debated and discussed in the public square by publishing the text online for at least three days before coming up for a vote in the House of Representatives. No more hiding legislative language from the minority party, opponents, and the public. Legislation should be understood by all interested parties before it is voted on."

The text of HR 2608, or the Small Business Program Extension and Reform Act, was posted online on Monday, Sept. 19 at 9:25 p.m. This is the main bill to which the CR funding measure was attached.

The one paragraph amendment to HR 2608 that contained the CR was attached to the bill and made available online on Thursday, Sept. 22, at 8:09 p.m.

The vote for HR 2608 occurred at 12:50 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 23 -- an interval of 4 hours and 41 minutes for the time the legislation was posted. Lawmakers voted 219-203 with 11 members not voting.

Jo Maney, spokeswoman for the House Rules Committee, told CNSNews.com that Friday's vote on the CR did not violate the 3-day rule because the CR was an amendment tacked on to a main bill, and the rule only applies to main legislation, not to amendments -- even though that specific CR amendment constituted hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending.

Maney also clarified that House rules require publishing legislation three days before a vote, not 72 hours.

However, the Pledge to America, which GOP lawmakers campaigned on in 2010, said all legislation would be posted online for at least three days -- not 72 hours --before a vote to ensure proper debate.

Last year, before he became Speaker, then-House Majority LEader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told Fox News on July 22, 2010: “We will ensure that bills are debated and discussed in the public square by publishing the text online for at least three days before coming up for a vote in the House of Representatives. No more hiding legislative language from the minority party, opponents, and the public. Legislation should be understood by all interested parties before it is voted on. ... Today, I've unveiled, at ‘America Speaking Out’ my effort to say, ‘read the bill.'"

“And then if we're lucky to be in the majority, and I'm lucky enough to be speaker, I will not bring a bill to the floor that hasn't been posted online for at least 72 hours," said Boehner.

He added: “The American people have a right to see what happens here. No more 2,000- to 3,000-page bills. This is the kind of nonsense that drives the American people crazy.”

However, in a later promotional video posted above, made as House speaker in 2011, Boehner pledged that the House would not vote on "major bills," unless they had been posted for 72 hours. The language was amended from "bills" to "major bills."

This is not the first time this year that the House GOP has broken the three-day pledge.

In April, they voted on the debt-limit bill -- the Government Shutdown Prevention Act -- without 72-hours publication. In March, they called for a vote on a bill to defund National Public Radio less then 48 hours after the text was posted.