Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Brian Baird (D-Wash.) today launched a bipartisan effort today to mandate that all legislation before the House of Representatives be made public for at least 72 hours before receiving a vote on the House floor. Reps. John Culberson (R-Texas) and Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) are also helping lead the effort.
Earlier this year, members, the public, and press were given 12 hours to review the 1,073-page long stimulus bill that cost $787 billion. The cap and trade bill, which would cost $846 billion and weighs in at 1,428 pages, was available for 16.5 hours before the vote. And under Republican rule in 2003, for example, the 852-page Medicare Part D bill was available for 29 hours before a vote was called on the $395 billion legislation.
"Make no mistake about it--this has been a bad practice under both Republican and Democratic control of the House," Walden said. "It's time to let the sun shine in. It's time to change how the House operates."
"At my public meetings and events, people always want to know Have you read these bills? Why don't they give you time to read these bills?'" Walden said. "Members of Congress, the public, and the press all deserve the time to read these bills before we have to vote on them on the House floor."
Today, Walden filed what's called a "discharge petition" to bring the sunshine legislation up for a vote on the House floor. Once the petition receives 218 signatures--a simple majority of the full House--the bill, H. Res. 554, could be voted on.
H. Res. 554 would amend House rules to require that all legislation be readily accessible for public review on the Internet for at least 72 hours before a vote on the House floor. Exceptions would be made for classified material, which would continue to be handled under existing laws and rules. The legislation was introduced by Baird in June. He has introduced it in each of the last three Congresses. Walden has also been a cosponsor in the past.
"This is not a partisan issue; it's an American issue," Walden, Baird, Minnick, and Culberson wrote to their colleagues in the attached letter. "A broadly informed public is the cornerstone of our representative democracy. It's high time to deliver the change that ensures rank and file representatives and Americans across our nation receive full transparency in the legislative process."
Representative Greg Walden represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which is comprised of 20 counties in eastern, southern, and central Oregon. He is a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.