Thursday, October 29, 2009


John Boehner: Let America Read the Bill

Dallas Morning News

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Special-interest deals forged in secret behind closed doors. Massive bills unveiled in the dark of night and rushed to a vote before anyone in America could possibly know the details. Wasteful pork projects stuffed into giant bills passed without scrutiny or debate.

This is what passes for business as usual in Congress today. It is the way Washington has done business for generations, under majorities Republican and Democratic alike.

This year, under the Obama administration and a Democratic Congress, things have gotten out of hand. Beginning with the trillion-dollar "stimulus," a number of massive and consequential bills have been rammed through without any member of Congress having read them. These sad spectacles have sparked a public backlash, with millions of Americans demanding that Congress stop the nonsense and "read the bill!"

It's time for Congress to change.

Did the Republican Party miss an opportunity to do away with these broken congressional rituals when it held the majority in Congress? Yes.

As a result of the 1994 Contract with America, which I helped write, important reforms were implemented, such as subjecting the House to audits by a private independent auditor, requiring Congress to live under the same laws as the rest of America and banning the practice of "proxy voting" or "ghost voting" by lawmakers who hadn't actually shown up to vote at all. These were meaningful changes, but unfortunately, things stagnated, and Republicans were subsequently turned out of office.

This is why every day I challenge my Republican colleagues to consider one simple question: If we suddenly found ourselves back in the majority tomorrow, what would we do differently?

When it comes to the issue of congressional transparency, House Republicans are providing a clear answer. We've listened to the American people, and we're united in our support for common-sense changes such as "read the bill" reform that would require all bills to be posted online for a minimum of 72 hours before they are brought to a vote. We also believe:

Members' committee votes should be posted online within 48 hours so the American people can see how their representatives voted.

Committees should be required to post the text of adopted bills online within 24 hours of adoption to end the practice of "phantom amendments" being added to bills secretly after they pass at the committee level.

Major negotiations on sweeping bills that would dramatically expand the reach of the federal government – such as the current government takeover of health care – should be open to the public and subject to a full and honest debate when bills reach the floor.

Cameras should be allowed in the secretive House Rules Committee, the panel that decides which bills and amendments come to a vote.

These initiatives, which House Republicans will be officially unveiling in the coming days, enjoy bipartisan support at the rank-and-file level, and all stand ready for adoption by the full House.

What's more, 176 Republicans in the House, including me, have already signed a petition circulated by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, that would force a vote on "read the bill" reform. Only six Democrats have signed the petition to date. Why just six? Because the leaders of the Democratic majority, seeking to protect the status quo and preserve their ability to rush bills through the House without scrutiny, have forbidden their caucus members from signing the petition. They won't even allow a hearing on the matter.

It's past time for Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders in Congress to rethink their opposition to these common-sense reforms. Rebuilding trust between the American people and their elected representatives starts with changing Congress itself. Americans deserve a government that is open, transparent and accountable to the people it serves.

John Boehner is minority leader in the U.S. House and may be reached through

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