Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Three Days to Read and Digest Health Reform Bill

Preface: The following is from John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas.

It’s such a simple idea. Yet powerful. Compelling. Alluring. Irresistible.

And it’s scaring the bejeebies out of the health reform crowd on Capitol Hill.
Here it is: Before Congress votes on a final health reform bill, the full text goes up on the Internet for everyone in the nation to read, along with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score — giving the expected price tag and the expected impact on seniors, small business, employer-based coverage, etc.

Pursuing Open Government in Three Days of the Condor

Think about it. For three days and three nights, everybody in the country can read, debate, discuss and give last-minute “up” or “down” input to their congressional representatives.

What’s so terrifying about that?

Here’s a summary of where the idea stands in the House, prepared by the NCPA’s Brian Williams:

• Congress has rushed through several pieces of legislation this year, allowing little or no time to read the actual text of the legislation before voting. This is a common abuse of power when one party controls the legislative process (in other words, Republicans were not immune either).

• When she was elected as Speaker, Nancy Pelosi promised that members would have at least 24 hours to examine bills prior to floor consideration. See page 24 of the Speaker’s New Direction for America.

• However, the Speaker has broken her own 24-hour rule multiple times by rushing through dozens of major bills. Recent examples on the list include several bills that were more than 1,000 pages in length, such as economic stimulus legislation, cap-and-trade legislation and S-CHIP expansion.

• A House rules change has been introduced (H. Res. 554) that would require legislation to be available on the Internet for 72 hours before consideration. The resolution was introduced by Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) and currently has 164 cosponsors.

o Because the Democratic leadership won’t consider H. Res. 554, a motion to discharge (a “discharge petition”) was introduced on September 23 and is currently collecting signatures.

o A discharge petition bypasses the Speaker and Democrat-controlled committees to bring the measure directly to the House of Representatives for consideration.

o To succeed, a discharge petition needs at least 218 signatures.

o As of 10/5, the discharge petition has 182 signatures.

• The day after the discharge petition was introduced, Speaker Pelosi was asked whether she supports the requirement for legislation to be available for 72 hours before consideration. She responded, “Absolutely.” But if Speaker Pelosi “absolutely” supported the 72-hour rule, there wouldn’t be any need for a discharge petition (the purpose of which is to bypass the Speaker).

Dr. Richard Reece is author, blogger, speaker, and innovation and reform commentator. Dr. Reece’s latest book, Obama, Doctors, and Health Reform ( is available at,, and for $31.95 (hardcover), $21.95 (softcover), and $6.95 (electronic). For information on speaking fees and arrangements, call 860-395-1501.

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