Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) repeatedly criticized Democrats last year for voting on legislation that members didn’t have time to read. “Read the Bill” language was even included in the GOP’s Pledge to America to ensure lawmakers would have adequate notice to review legislation.
“Neither members of Congress or the public were given time to read the trillion-dollar stimulus before it passed. Nobody read the cap-and-trade bill. Nobody read the budget. And yet Democrats approved them anyway,” Boehner said in a video last year. “Every major bill should be posted online and publicly available for at least 72 hours.”
But when the Budget Control Act comes up for a vote on the House floor — arguably the most significant bill under Boehner’s leadership — lawmakers won’t have the promised 72 hours to read it.
The legislation was posted around 1:45 a.m. today — and it was changed against at 12:20 p.m., which left little time for people to print out all 74 pages of the legislation and try to wade through it before the House vote occurs.
This marks the third time this year Republicans have violated their pledge, according to the Sunlight Foundation, an organization that advocates for greater government openness and transparency. It first happened on March 17 on a vote to defund National Public Radio and again on April 1 with the Government Shutdown Prevention Act.
Sunlight has cautioned that House Republicans wrote the rules in a way to be able to circumvent the 72-hour promise. For instance, the rules specify “three days,” not 72 hours.
Boehner’s office defended the latest move. “This legislation is similar to the House-passed Budget Control Act, with three clear and easy-to-understand changes,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told Byron York of the Washington Examiner. “We wish there was time to wait three days, but as a result of Washington Democrats’ refusal to offer their own plan, our backs are against the wall — and the three-day rule has a clear exception for such emergencies.”
One problematic change was spotted earlier today Heritage’s David Addington. He noted the newly created joint committee is not required to recommend $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, based on how the language in the bill is currently written.
As for the urgent nature of the legislation, tomorrow is the debt-limit deadline set by Obama administration, but researchers at Barclays Capital have said the government won’t reach its borrowing limit until Aug. 10.
At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, meanwhile, Obama is likely to break his transparency pledge of posting all legislation online for five days before signing. He’s repeatedly broken that promise as well.
UPDATE: Less than 24 hours after the legislation was first posted online — “never reviewed by a legislative committee and rushed to the floor” — the House voted 269 to 161 to approve the Budget Control Act.