Congressmen Push Bipartisan Bill Mandating Posting of Legislation Online Before Votes

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., launched a bipartisan effort Wednesday to require all legislation be made available on the Internet at least 72 hours before a vote on the House floor.

The measure would amend the Rules of the House of Representatives to mandate that all legislation and conference reports be posted in full and online in a format searchable by text, three days before a vote.

Exceptions would be made for classified material, which would continue to be handled under existing laws and rules. The resolution also would require a two-thirds majority vote to waive the 72-hour requirement for a national emergency.

On Wednesday, Walden filed a discharge petition, which requires 218 signatures to bring the legislation up for a vote on the House floor. The bill currently has 98 co-sponsors, including Democrats and Republicans.

Walden and Baird agree this is not about partisan politics. The goal is transparency.

"People always want to know, 'Have you read these bills?'" Walden said. "Members of Congress, the public and the press all deserve the time to read these bills before we have to vote on them on the House floor. ... It doesn't guarantee good government, but it helps."

According to Baird, this resolution is about common sense, fair play, and responsible government.

"Most members will benefit from this dramatic improvement," Baird said.

Walden guaranteed House Republican leadership will support the resolution.

"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," House Minority Leader John Boehner said in a written statement. (The stimulus bill passed by Congress totaled $787 billion.) "Congress can, and must, do better."

The legislation was initially introduced by Baird in June. He has introduced it in each of the last three Congresses. Walden has also been a co-sponsor in the past.

Congressmen John Culberson (R-TX) and Walt Minnick (D-ID) are also helping lead the effort.

Culberson sees this as a step towards "real-time democracy." He also plans to use online technology to solicit contributions from his contituents on the health care bill.

"The Internet is the greatest truth detector ever invented," Culberson said. "Where you have transparency, you have trust."