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A Novel Idea: Give Congress a Chance to Read Legislation Before Voting On It

1:37 PM, Sep 23, 2009 • By GARY ANDRES
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Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised the most "honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history." Shouldn't an institution committed to those lofty ideals give its members the chance to read legislation before voting on it?

We might find out the answer soon.

A bipartisan effort is underway to force a vote on a resolution (H.Res. 554) requiring the House to give members 72-hours to review legislation before casting a final vote. Speaker Pelosi has not allowed the measure to come to the floor and a bipartisan group of lawmakers (Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Brian Baird, D-Wash.), are trying to get enough signatures on a discharge petition to force and up or down vote on the measure.

When Congress acts without reading legislation, surprises often turn up later. House Republican Leader John Boehner said this today about the 72-hour bill:

The American people are angry that Speaker Pelosi didn't allow the public and their elected representatives to read the trillion-dollar ‘stimulus' bill or the national energy tax before they were rammed through the House. They have every right to be angry. Look at the results. We've lost more than 2.5 million jobs since the ‘stimulus' bill passed, and yet after the fact we found that it included nearly a million dollars for Rep. Murtha's ‘airport for no one.' Months after House Democrats passed Speaker Pelosi's national energy tax, we learned of a secret Obama Administration analysis showing such a ‘cap-and-trade' scheme will raise costs for American families by an average of $1,700 a year.

"Congress can, and must, do better. That's why I'm proud to support this bipartisan effort to bring greater accountability and transparency to how Congress spends the taxpayers' hard-earned money. I urge my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle to do the same by signing the discharge petition."

Discharging a committee is rare. Doing so requires gathering 218 congressional signatures. And signing such a petition is considered a hostile act against the majority party leadership. So the prospects for H.Res. 554 -- the read before you vote measure -- are bleak.

Too bad. Seems like the most open and ethical Congress in history might want to do something this historic.