Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Reading the Bills

Deliberation depends on knowledge. As our Congress chapter and previous posts have indicated, a common criticism of Congress is that lawmakers do not read the bills. Two years ago, the office of the Speaker of the House announced:
Posting all bills online for public viewing at least three days before a vote: The days of quickly ramming massive bills through Congress - such as the “stimulus” that didn’t work and the job-killing national energy tax - are over. Under the new rules, the House will post all bills online at least three calendar days before a vote, giving lawmakers, the public, and the media a chance to read each proposal and understand its impact. The Sunlight Foundation called the new rule “a huge victory for the ReadtheBill movement, and for transparency in the way the House considers legislation.”
And yet the House may soon take up the "fiscal cliff" legislation before the three days have expired. How? The House can waive the three-day requirement by simple majority vote.  And it has done so. 

Roll Call adds that the calendar makes it easier to act in haste:
The House’s path is made simpler since leadership has procedure on their side.
Clause 6(a)(3) of rule XIII gives House leaders same-day authority during the last three days of a Congress, meaning they can bring the legislation to the floor any time before noon on Thursday. The procedure has not been used since Dec. 31, 1970.
From rule XIII:
6. (a) A report by the Committee on Rules on a rule, joint rule, or the order of business may not be called up for consideration on the same day it is presented to the House except---
(1) when so determined by a vote of two-thirds of the Members voting, a quorum being present;
(2) in the case of a resolution proposing only to waive a requirement of clause 4 or of clause 8 of rule XXII concerning the availability of reports; or
(3) during the last three days of a session of Congress.