Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another reason to be angry with Congress

The Sunlight Foundation blog says that members of Congress had 24 hours to read and understand the hugely complex energy bill that passed the House.

This is an insult to open government. EVERY BILL should be posted in FINAL form on the internet AT LEAST 72 hours before it comes to the floor for a vote.


Unremarkable because it, like too many bills, was nearly impossible to read or study prior to a final vote. The bill, H.R. 6899, clocking in at 290 pages long was introduced at 9:24 pm on September 15, 2008 and was voted out of the House Rules Committee at midnight. The final vote was held at 10:05 on September 16, 2008. That left 24.5 hours for lawmakers, staff, watchdogs, and concerned citizens to read the bill, or if one counts from the time the bill reported out of Rules, 22 hours.

That’s 290 pages of crucially important legislation to read, digest, and understand in one day. If a reader can plow through text at one-page-per-minute the bill would take approximately 4.8 hours to read, which makes it conceivable that someone could have read the bill. (Legislation doesn’t exactly fly by as fast as a novel, like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which clocks in at 287 pages.) Parsing and understanding legislation must take a longer amount of time. Additionally, calculations should factor in the basic human need for sleep.

Lawmakers and citizens should not accept that bills will be introduced that no one can or will read. This Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act goes down in the pantheon of bills released with not enough time to read them. Lawmakers should require that all bills be available online for public consumption for 72 hours prior to a vote.