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Read the Reid Debt Bill -- Vote This Afternoon

July 30, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The House is scheduled this afternoon to vote on Senate Majority Harry Reid's debt ceiling bill, which you can find here:

H.R.2693 -- Budget Control Act of 2011

The full text is here. It's a good read. I promise.

Because of the procedure under which the Reid bill is being taken up, it's guaranteed to fail. Rep. Dreier, the House Rules Committee Chair, has put the bill on the suspensions calendar, which means there will be no amendments allowed, no motions to recommit, and a 2/3rds majority required for passage. The suspensions calendar is typically reserved for non-controversial stuff that is going to pass easily, like naming post offices and honoring sports teams. It's a way to save time on routine matters -- not really a good way to vote on cutting trillions in social spending. This isn't going to get a 2/3rds majority, and Dreier knows that.

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Dealing WIth Libya

June 3, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

House Republicans have finally decided on how to deal with the growing discontent over that pesky, probably unconstitutional war in Libya. They're going to put the Dennis Kucinich [D, OH-10] withdrawalresolution that they pulled from the floor earlier in the week because it might have passed back on the calendar for a vote Friday. But they're also going to hold a vote on a new, non-binding resolution, from Speaker John Boehner [R, OH-8], that criticizes that Obama for not go through the proper channels in authorizing the war and requiring him to provide Congress with detailed info about the rationale behind getting involved. The strategy: give anti-war and constitutionalist Reps. something meaningful to vote for, but also give middle-of-the-road Reps. a way to allow Obama to continue his war but still be able to tell their constituents that they voted against it.

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Fixing the 'Read the Bill' Rule

April 19, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

During the midterm campaigns, Republicans promised that if they took over the House they would end the practice of rushing legislation by requiring all bills to be publicly available for 72 hours before they can be voted on. However, when it came time for them to actually set the rules of the House, the 72-hour rule was changed to a three-calendar-day rule, which meant that a bill could be rushed to a vote after as little as 24 hours and 1 minute of public availability. This three-calendar-day rule has already been used three times this session to rush controversial bills to votes without an adequate period of public review.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

April 11, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

With a deal in place on funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year, the House and Senate now have to go through the motions of actually putting the appropriations legislation into effect. As of Monday morning, the House Appropriations Committee is still drafting the legislative language of the deal, and they're not expected to unveil an actual bill until late Monday night. As you'll see below, the bill is scheduled for a vote on Wednesday, which suggests that once again the House leadership is going to exploit the weak language of their "read the bill" rule and make the bill available for public review for far less than 72 hours, the minimum standard of public availability before votes they themselves promoted on the campaign trail. Of course, we'll be doing everything we can to get the bill text online for commenting and sharing as soon as it's released. With all of the controversial policy riders that have been involved in the closed-door negotiations with the bill, folks with interests in just about any major political issue are going to have something to look for in the text.

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Sunlight Foundation reports that the bill to defund NPR that the House is set to pass this afternoon violates the Republicans' pledge to make all legislation publicly available online at least 72 hours prior to being voted on. In this case, the bill was only available to the public and Congress for less than 48 hours before the vote. And, of course, it hasn't had a single committee hearing or mark-up, and it's being brought to the floor under a closed rule that limits debate to one hour and does not allow amendments.

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Almost a year after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law, the misinformation campaign about what's in it just won't stop. The most recent example is from Rep. Michelle Bachmann [R, MN-6], who claims that the Democrats snuck more than a hundred billion dollars in the bill and passed it secretly without public review. But Bachmann's either lying or she has no idea what she's talking about because her claims are just flat-out false.

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Getting Ready for the New Congress

January 2, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

We're now just two days away from the beginning of the 112th Congress and the new Republican House majority. While the Republicans have already announced some details about their first few actions, full legislative information for the new session is not yet available. On Wednesday morning we'll be clearing our database of bills information from the 111th Congress to make way for the new data, but, like in 2009, some of the first legislative actions are going to happen without any opportunity for the public or most members of Congress to review the actual documents or submit feedback.

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Reading the Bill

August 26, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Max Baucus [D, MT] probably did more to craft the health care bill than just about anybody else in Congress. Still, he's catching flack for saying at a townhall meeting last week in Montana that he never actually read the full thing.

Click through for our take -- it might be a small surprise -- or bop over to our micro-publshing account to see what happened over the weekend.

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25 Bills Rushed in 2009

January 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

In 2009, Congress rushed a total of 25 bills to the floor without posting them online at least 72 hours beforehand for public review. That includes a lot of major pieces of legislation, like the stimulus bill, cash for clunkers, and a bill to make the estate tax permanent.

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Despite months of calling for more transparency and a slower pace with health care reform, Senate Republicans today blocked a Democratic proposal to require all amendments to the health care bill to be posted online for 72 hours before a vote.

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Read the Bill: Illegal Immigrants Are NOT Covered

September 9, 2009 - by Conor Kenny

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) angrily shouted "you lie!" in response to President Obama's statement during his Wednesday address to Congress that claims of illegal immigrants being covered by the proposed health care reforms were "false."

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The Health Care Debate and the Marvel of Permalinks

August 11, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

Recently, we at OpenCongress have received a lot of requests to see the text of the America's Affordable Health Choices Act (HR 3200) with page numbers. There's no denying this is a complex piece of legislation with far-reaching effects on Americans and the economy, and I think there's a genuine movement by Americans to understand the bill and debate specific points.

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March 24, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Campbell Brown at CNN endorses the Sunlight Foundation's Read the Bill campaign, which simply asks that all non-emergency legislation be available online for 72 hours before debate. As part of the campaign, OpenCongress put together a custom feed that automatically tracks bills in Congress for which the time of the full bill text being available to the time of the bill's initial consideration is less than 72 hours. I just checked the list of rushed bills, and I see that it is growing. ...

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We have four major features to announce on OpenCongress today, and we are very excited about each one of them. Here's an overview, with more info and examples in the full post:

1. OpenCongress Wiki - for every Senator, Representative and major piece of legislation in Congress, there is now a space for people to work together to build a comprehensive overview of all the most important information.

2. Videos from Metavid, the open video archive of the U.S. Congress, and the YouTube hubs for the House and Senate. Now, for every Senator, Representative, and major bill in Congress, OpenCongress shows you embedded video footage of relevant floor speeches, official announcements, and more.

3. Inline bill text commenting, now with the ability to compare different versions of a bill. Building off our feature to comment and link to a bill's official text, paragraph-by-paragraph, now text changes are displayed in different color type for at-a-glance comparison.

4. For the Read The Bill campaign from the Sunlight Foundation and others, a new page to track bills that have been rushed through the Congressional process.

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Read the Bill

February 26, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The Sunlight Foundation is asking Congress to make a common sense change to the way they operate - read the bills before they vote on them. is Sunlight's petition site urging Congress to post all legislation online for at least 72 hours before it comes up for a vote. Seventy-two hours would give members of Congress time to seek changes and improvements to the laws they are making, and give the public the chance to tell their elected officials what they think about them.

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