A watered-down version of the Read the Bills Act, the so-called "72 hour" rule, would require all final bills to be posted on-line for 72 hours before coming to a vote. It now has 218 sponsors - a majority of the House!
It is DownsizeDC.org's position that a) we are largely responsible for this rule and how far it's come, and b) it's not going to do much -- we really need the 24-carat Read the Bills Act. Still, we support it because it was a nearly inevitable stage of progress that our opponents would try to assuage us with a watered-down, milquetoast version first. So we must pass it, even while we remind everyone that it's not enough.
You may borrow from or copy this letter . . .
I am cc'ing my Senators so they understand the importance I place on reading the bills.
H.Res. 554, the 72 Hour Rule, should not be a partisan issue.
* It was introduced by a Democrat, Brian Baird of Washington.
* Rep. Baird is joined by 217 co-sponsors, including 46 Democrats
* It advances President Obama's stated goal of greater transparency
This shouldn't be surprising. The original Read the Bills Act originated with the grassroots group DownsizeDC.org back when Republicans were in charge and forced through bills like the so-called Patriot Act and the Medicare Drug Benefit. Even this watered-down 72-hour rule was originally proposed in those years by the moderate "good government" group Sunlight Foundation.
Regrettably, however . . .
* House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer ridicules the idea http://gopleader.gov/blog/?postid=199956
* And this gives the Republican leadership a chance to grandstand http://www.newsmax.com/InsideCover/Boehner--Wants--Bill-Read--Rule/2010/07/22/id/365391
Is it in the Democratic Party's interest to let the Republicans exploit this rule that has the people's overwhelming support?
In fact, there is one, and only one, reason to oppose H.R. 554, and that's because it doesn't go nearly far enough. In contrast to H.Res. 554, DownsizeDC.org's Read the Bills Act . . . https://secure.downsizedc.org/etp/campaigns/27
* would require a reading of each bill by a clerk before a quorum of both chambers
* require that the bill be posted online for SEVEN days before a vote
* and unlike this resolution, the Read the Bills Act has the force of law
Nevertheless, H.Res. 554 would still:
* Give members of Congress and their staffs an opportunity to digest large, complicated bills
* Allow journalists and activists the opportunity to study the bill and expose corrupt or dangerous provisions hidden in the bill
There is never a reason Congress can't wait a mere three days before voting on a bill. The people know this, and thanks to our pressure more than half of Congress agrees.
Passing H.R. 554 NOW would take this issue off the table in the November election. It is in your self-interest to ignore Steny Hoyer and bring H.R. 554 to a vote. After that, introduce and pass DownsizeDC.org's Read the Bills Act.
And we invite you to join the Read the Bills Act Coalition. When you add your blog or website to the Coalition, you give your readers a chance to learn about the Read the Bills Act. In return, your site will be listed on the main page of our blog and will be listed in a Dispatch like this reaching 29,900 subscribers. You can learn more here.
Finally, in July the House passed 83 bills totaling 1,649 pages, while the Senate passed 22 bills totaling 1,908 pages. You can see the list of bills on our blog.
Thank you for being a DC Downsizer.
Assistant Communications Director