Lawmakers frequently use the excuse that they don't have enough time to read some of the massive bills put before them for a vote in Congress. Now a bipartisan group of House members is trying to force the Democratic leadership to change the rules so that any bill must be made public for 72 hours before members vote on it.
Reps. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Brian Baird, D-Wash., are collecting the signatures of House members and if they get 218, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will have to schedule an up or down vote on implementing the three-day rule.
“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 in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
Democrats have been criticized in recent months for rushing through big bills. The $787 stimulus bill, for instance, was publicly available for just half a day before the House voted on it. The “cap and trade” global warming bill passed by the House earlier this summer was online for less than a day before a vote took place.
Pelosi has never committed to 3-day wait, but earlier this summer she promised there would be “ample” time to review the House health care reform bill before members vote on it.
Democrats and Republicans alike have complained they do not have enough time to read legislation,
“What good is reading the bill if it's a thousand pages and you don't have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?” House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said in July.
But It will be very difficult for Baird and Walden to get the 218 signatures. They would need support from at least 40 Democrats in addition Baird, and that's assuming they were able to secure the backing of every Republican. Many Democrats may avoid signing the petition because the Democratic leadership will undoubtedly frown on it.
The last time a petition was used successfully to bring a vote to the floor was in 2002, when former Reps. Chris Shays, R-Ct., and Marty Meehan, D-Mass., used the method to force a vote on what is now the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act.