By Rep. Bob Goodlatte
[Also see Washington Examiner's article, Obama closes curtain on transparency]
One of the most important duties I have as a Member of Congress is to review legislation that comes before Congress and determine if it is something that the Congress should be acting upon and if it will improve the lives of the people of the 6th Congressional District, or if it will have an adverse impact on them. After carefully weighing each piece of legislation, I must go to the floor of the House of Representatives and cast a vote.
Unfortunately, in recent months the Democratic leadership in Congress has decided that it is more important to ram critical pieces of their agenda through on strict party-line votes rather than allow Members of Congress enough time to appropriately review the legislation.
In February of 2009, the Majority in Congress revealed the text of the nearly $1 trillion “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” – the so-called stimulus bill-- just ten hours before Congress began to debate and vote on it. With just a few hours to read the legislation, no one had enough time to read it and in fact language was inserted into the bill that protected the bonuses of top business executives, even as their companies took hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to avoid bankruptcy. This was how AIG was able to distribute $165 million in taxpayer funded bonuses to their executives.
Then again early this spring the House Rules Committee approved a three hundred page amendment at the last minute and included it in the disastrous Cap and Trade legislation. Just hours later, the Democratic Leadership rammed this controversial legislation through the Congress by just seven votes. Given the significant impact this legislation will have on our lives, many Members of Congress wanted to amend the bill, but their amendments were not allowed to be debated and voted on and the legislation passed before we had a chance to review the 1,200 page legislation, including the 300 pages of secret changes.
While this disturbing trend has reached new heights in recent months, it is unfortunately not unique to the current House Leadership. Both parties have abused this process and it must stop. For this reason, I am a strong supporter of bipartisan legislation which would strengthen House Rules and ensure that Congress has ample time to read legislation before a vote. This legislation, which has the support of 217 Members of Congress, requires all major bills to be posted online publicly for at least 72 hours before they are brought to the House floor for a vote. This would give Members of Congress and the American people time to review the legislation before it comes up for a vote.
Refusing to allow Members of Congress the chance to review legislation before it’s voted on seriously jeopardizes the integrity of the democratic process.
Unfortunately, those who stand to lose the most from a secretive, dubious process are the American people. Our constituents demand accountability and they should be able to examine any legislation that has the potential to significantly impact their lives. I will continue to work to ensure that debate in Congress is transparent and open to help build the trust so vital in a democracy.
To contact me about this or any other matter, please visit my website at www.goodlatte.house.gov.