America to Congress: put bills online!

 

Should legislation be posted online and available to the public before Congress votes on it?

Pollster Scott Rasmussen asked voters this question, and found that 83% said yes and 6% no. This is one issue which has even more appeal to Independents than to partisans of either party: 85% of Republicans, 92% of Independents and 76% of Democrats said yes.

As Rasmussen points out in his analysis, there is room for cynicism about House Republicans’ current support for such a measure; they could have put it into effect when they had a majority in the House, but didn’t. Nonetheless, I think this could be a significant campaign issue for the out-party. Rationalizations by in-party politicians like John Kerry as to why this is unrealistic or would be unhelpful are unlikely to be very persuasive to voters when we are confronted time and again with the spectacle of 1,000-plus-page legislation which will vastly change important parts of our society being passed before almost anyone has a chance to seriously analyze it.

Yes, this would put a crimp in the way Congress does business. But the Founders set up a system in which it is hard to pass major legislation. This would make it a little harder to do so, but by no means impossible. For nearly 200 years Congress has commanded the Government Printing Office and its predecessors to print the Congressional Record every day. Now that Gutenberg is dead and the Internet is available, why not put legislative texts online?

 

 

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