Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Legislating in secret - or - the end of the era of transparency before it began

When you don’t want people to know what you’re doing, what do you do – you don’t tell them. The robotic Obama Democrat congress is implementing the outrageous practice of shielding new legislation not only from the public but also from the legislators who vote on them. Thanks to Washington Examiner correspondent, Susan Ferrechio, we know that the Democrat leadership in congress is fighting against posting bills online - and winning.

Since President Obama took office, and even earlier during the last days of the Bush administration, laws have been passed that were deliberately made impossible for the public to read in advance and many in congress admit that they too have had no time to read and understand bills before voting – but they voted anyway – with the result that the Democrat congress succeeded in giving Obama whatever he wanted. Most often these bills had enormous price tags and the country’s debt mushroomed like an atomic cloud.

In the waning days of the Bush White House, first a "crisis" was declared in the financial industry and then a Democrat Congress passed a $700 billion financial sector rescue package on October 3, 2008. However, this 1,100 page costly bill was passed with only 29 hours prior notice to the public online before voting. Even those in the House and Senate were given only hours before the final vote.

Big numbers don’t scare Democrats but they might waken the public to what the Democrat congress under Obama is doing. So the non-stimulating 1,100 page, $790 billion Stimulus bill was passed February 14, 2009, after being available online only 13 hours before debate. Of course, there was another "crisis" that warranted immediate action, notwithstanding that almost all of this money was not to be spent for years while the economy continued to languish. Democratic leadership didn’t want the public to know where this money was going until after the law was passed; otherwise they might have learned about the "stimulation" of ACORN and like organizations with billions of dollars which is included in the law.

The Stimulus bill has been a resounding failure except to those sharing in the largesse, mostly supporters of Barack Obama’s election. Although the president promised that spending all this money would restrain unemployment to 8%, we have seen unemployment rising to nearly 10% with the true figure being closer to 17%.

The 1,168 page cap-and-tax law passed the House August 26, 2009, after being online only 15 hours before the vote. Many in congress, including the committee chair, Henry Waxman, admitted they did not know what was in the bill or had not read it before voting. Imagine, this so-called energy bill will affect the lives of all Americans in untold ways and increase costs to businesses and the public forever but the Democrat congress rushed the bill though in less time than most people could read over 1,100 pages of anything, let alone something as convoluted and far reaching as this bill.

The only good thing to come out of the Democrat spending spree is that it seems the people of America have finally been aroused to pay attention to what is happening around them. There were town hall meetings across the country this past summer that brought out formerly passive Americans who were angry about the way Congress rushed through passage of the stimulus, global warming and bank bailout bills. The stimulus bill has failed to provide help to the job market promised by Obama. Lisa Rosenberg, a lobbyist for the Sunlight Foundation that seeks to bring more transparency to government, pointed out "If someone had a chance to look at the bill, they would have found that out."

Now that health care "reform" proposals are being pushed by Obama and Democrats, voters are starting to pay attention. Polls show that large majorities are against the Democrat proposals but that hasn’t stopped the Democrat railroading. Democrat speaker Nancy Pelosi has dictated that a health care bill will be passed by the House with no input from Republicans and we can expect with little advance notice of its provisions to the public.

The Senate is expected to vote on a health bill very soon which also is written in hundreds of pages with no assurance that Senators and the public will be given the chance to read the legislation before a vote.

Democratic leadership is unwilling to cede control over when bills are brought to the floor for votes. One Democrat aide said "The leaders use it as a tool to get votes or to keep amendments off a bill."

It is obvious that the public has no faith that congress will be doing the right thing for the country. "The American people are now suspicious of not only the lawmakers, but the process they hide behind to do their work," said Michael Franc, president of government relations for the Heritage Foundation.

Heritage wants to have all bills posted online 72 hours before votes are taken but I believe even this does not provide sufficient time for analysis and publicizing the critical features of proposed laws. Furthermore, not only should there be adequate public notice and disclosure, it should be mandatory that every Senator and member of congress read or at least be intimately familiar with all provisions of bill they will vote upon before they become law.