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Op Ed: Common-Sense Transparency Measures Would Bring Needed Reform To Legislative Process


Location: Washington, DC

During the Presidential election campaign then Senator Obama called for transparency in the legislative process, even promising that health care reform negotiations would be "televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies."

However, last week Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled the Democrats' health care reform proposal -- a 2,000 page bill that was brokered behind closed doors with no transparency or input from House Republicans and many Democrats.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant and nowhere is this truer than in the lawmaking process. That is why I have cosponsored five important common-sense transparency measures.

Refusing to allow Members of Congress to review legislation before it's voted on seriously jeopardizes the integrity of the democratic process. For this reason, I support legislation to ensure that Members of Congress and the American people have ample time to read legislation before a vote. This legislation would require all major bills to be posted online publicly for at least 72 hours before they are brought to the House floor for a vote.

Votes cast on the House floor are readily available online; however, this same transparency doesn't exist in many House committees, where votes on major legislation can occur without easy public access to the proceedings. Americans deserve to know how their elected representatives vote as bills are crafted in committees. That is why I have cosponsored legislation to bring transparency to every vote a Member takes by requiring committees to post the text of bills and amendments online within 24 hours after adoption and to post recorded votes on their websites within 48 hours of being cast.

The Rules Committee is a very powerful committee that determines under what rules every bill will be brought to the House floor. The Majority often uses the Rules Committee to craft rules limiting discussion and amendments offered by the Minority. I have cosponsored legislation to place cameras in the Rules Committee to make committee actions more transparent.

Finally, I have also cosponsored legislation requiring the final health care bill-writing conference to be open to the public and the media. That is what the President promised. The American people demand accountability and they should be able to examine any legislation that has the potential to significantly impact their lives as well as view the negotiations that craft the legislation.

Unfortunately, those who stand to lose the most from a secretive, dubious process are the American people. I will continue to work to ensure that debate in Congress is transparent and open to help build the trust so vital in a democracy.

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