Proposal Requires House to Post Bills on Web 72 Hours Before Vote
September 25, 2009 - 6:50 PMBefore health care legislation or any other issue is voted on by Congress, the public should have 72 hours to review it, according to a bipartisan resolution in the House.
The resolution comes in a year when a $787 billion stimulus bill, with 1,073 pages, was approved after the public had just 12 hours to review the final version. The $846 billion cap-and-trade legislation that passed the House this summer was 1,428 pages long and available just 16 hours before the vote.
This practice is not just a problem when Democrats control Congress, said Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.). He was referring to 2003, when the Republican majority pushed an 852-page, $395-billion Medicare Prescription Drug plan through the House, and members had just 29 hours to review it.
“Republicans have done wrong, too,” Wilson said during a conference call on Friday with reporters and bloggers in which he supported the resolution. “So this would require both parties to provide for 72 hours.”
The resolution would require that all legislation be posted on the Internet at least 72 hours before a vote is taken on the House floor. Exceptions would be made for classified material, which would continue to be handled under existing laws and rules.
The proposal was made by Republican Reps. Greg Walden of Oregon and John Culberson of Texas, along with Democratic Reps. Brian Baird of Washington and Walt Minnick of Idaho. Baird has sponsored a similar proposal for three consecutives Congresses.
The four are now pushing a discharge petition, which could force the House to vote on the matter if it gets 218 signatures. By late Friday, the petition had 178 signatures – mostly Republicans.
Still, Wilson believes transparency should be a bipartisan principle.
The House voted along party lines to censure Wilson for shouting, “You lie,” when President Barack Obama told Congress that the health care plan would not cover illegal immigrants. Wilson apologized for the comment immediately after the speech, but was still censured. Wilson stressed that his advocacy for the bill should not deter Democrats.
“I have at least a pleasant relationship with the other side. I need to tell you, a couple of years ago, there was a poll taken, and I came out the second friendliest member of Congress,” Wilson told CNSNews.com. “Except for one slight aberration, I have in the past two weeks, a number of Congressmen introduce me as ‘my good friend.’ Sometimes they say it and don’t mean it. I will tell you, they had to think about it and they meant it.”
Wilson stressed that grassroots activism has already shaped the health care debate.
“The government takeover was supposed to be completed in July,” Wilson said, referring to the Democratic leaders’ pledge to pass a bill before the August recess. “But because the American people found out what was in the bill that caused the bill to stall and the end of life provisions, hopefully provision related to the government option.”
He also stressed that the issue he called out Obama on was addressed.
“Two weeks ago today after the American people spoke out, we have citizenship verification,” Wilson said, referring to a provision that would require someone getting federal benefits under the new health care package would be living in the country legally.
“This would not have been possible if the American people have not spoken up. The way to speak up is to know about it,” Wilson said. “This is very, very important. And this proves the American people can make a difference.”