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359 Members Endorse 72-hour Review For An Appropriations Bill…but What About Time To Read The Healthcare Bill?

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Location: Washington, D.C.

{If 359 members of Congress endorse a 72-hour review period for an agriculture appropriations bill, what stops them from demanding the same for all bills, including a major reform of healthcare?

That's the question Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) is asking tonight after the House overwhelmingly approved a 72-hour review period for the agriculture appropriations bill by a 359-41 margin.

Walden and Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) last week launched a petition to bring H. Res. 554 up for a vote, which would ensure that the public, press, and members of Congress have at least 72 hours to read and understand bills in the House.

"If the 72-hour rule is good enough for the agriculture appropriations bill, then what stops my colleagues from signing the petition to give the public time to review all bills, like major healthcare reform?" Walden said. "This is about one thing: the public's right to know. It's time to change how Washington works."

As of tonight, 178 House members have signed the bipartisan Walden-Baird petition. Just 40 more signatures are needed to meet the 218-signature threshold to force the vote on H. Res. 554. Follow the progress of the petition by clicking here.

Separately, last week the Senate Finance Committee rejected an amendment by Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Kent.) to make the Senate healthcare bill--which currently isn't drafted--available for 72 hours before a vote. The amendment was narrowly rejected, 12-11, with Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) crossing party lines to vote with the ten Republicans on the committee.

Earlier this year, the public, press, and members of Congress 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.

Watch Walden's speech on the House floor by clicking here.

Watch Walden discuss the effort on Fox and Friends here.

What others are saying:

The Wall Street Journal:
Polls show overwhelming agreement outside the Beltway that it's more important for Congress to get health-care reform done right than done quickly. A Polling Company survey conducted last month found 95% agreeing that members of Congress shouldn't vote on any bill they haven't read in full. … It's time for Congress to change its ways. Haste can make for more than waste and lead to populist outrage that often takes on a life of its own. That happened after this year's stimulus bill included the infamous provision authorizing executives of bailed-out AIG to get retroactive bonuses. ("Congress needs a 72-hour waiting period," by John Fund, Sept. 26)

The Bulletin:
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, is trying to change the way the House works. He is working to get the House to put its bills online for 72 hours before voting on them. It would give members, the media and the public a chance to vet what's being voted on. Similar measures have died in recent years. … It's simple enough. Bills should be voted on their merits. And that can't be done unless they can be read in advance. ("Find the time to read the bills before voting," editorial, Sept. 27)

The Columbian:
And as for Democrats who don't like Baird's tactic, too bad. Show Americans, please, why and how a 72-hour review is bad. The only excuse we've heard is that the need to pass key legislation such as health care reform is too crucial to be slowed down. What? Slowed down?! You gotta be kidding! We're talking three days! As we have advocated for years, members of Congress could coax applause from no wider segment of their constituents -- from rock-ribbed Republicans and ultra-liberal Democrats alike -- than by approving and obeying this resolution. ("Read the bills," editorial, Sept. 29)

Washington Times:
The resolution is supported by several public-interest groups, including the Sunlight Foundation, which pointed out that hasty votes can result in unintended consequences, such as the provision tucked into the stimulus bill that had the effect of authorizing executives of bailed-out insurance giant AIG to receive retroactive bonuses. ("GOP seeks 72-hour window to read bills," by Kara Rowland, Sept. 24)

Sunlight Foundation:
H. Res. 554 would help ensure that rushed bills become a thing of the past. If a discharge petition is the only way to get a vote on this piece of legislation, we're all for it. ("72 Hour Rule Momentum," by Lisa Rosenberg (blog), Sept. 23)


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