Just the Facts

Five Facts on House Leaders Forcing Representatives to Vote on Bills Before Reading Them

By No Labels
August 8, 2018 | Blog

In recent years Congress has begun passing legislation that affects millions of Americans without having done due diligence on the real impact of the bill.  Leadership often keeps rank-and-file members—especially those in the minority—in the dark about upcoming legislation until the last second.  This strategy is used to confuse and overwhelm members of Congress and give more controversial bills a better chance of being forced through.  Because of these practices, which rob duly elected members of the ability to properly represent their constituents, the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus has proposed that all members be given a three-business-day-notice of a committee markup.  Here are five facts on House leadership.

The Break the Gridlock package would require a minimum notice of three business days before a committee markup

Currently congressional leadership uses their control of Congress’ schedule to their advantage, often giving rank-and-file members little time to prepare for markups — when legislation is debated, amended, and potentially reported to the full chamber for a vote. This proposed rule allows for greater transparency by giving committee members more time to review and consider a bill before voting on it. It also increases accountability, as it provides members more time to question their colleagues on controversial aspects of a bill.

Members of Congress often have little time to read and review a bill before they are asked to vote on it in committee

This is often the case with major legislation, such as spending bills, due to the strict deadlines attached to them and strong opinions on the contents of the bills.  As Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) said, “There seems to be an inverse relationship between the importance of legislation and the opportunity to review it.”

In March, members of Congress were given insufficient time to read a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill

Lawmakers were given just over two days to read the 2,200-page package before the U.S. government would be sent into a shutdown. “I think that so often they do this because they prefer to hide these details from their own members,” Doggett said following release of the bill.

Members of Congress are often given so little time to prepare for a vote that they are forced to turn to Google or Twitter for answers

As congressional leadership worked on the final edits to the 2018 omnibus spending bill members of the House voiced their frustration over the extreme lack of transparency that had defined the process.  Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) wrote on Twitter, “Your Republic might have serious issues if elected congressmen must scour Twitter feeds of reporters covering leaks from anonymous Senate staffers to know what’s going to be in the 1,000-page bill they will be asked to vote on in 24 hours.”

In March 2018, the READ IT Resolution was proposed to address this issue

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Thomas Garrett Jr. (R-VA) and urged the House to give a mandatory minimum review period of “a number of minutes equal to two times the number of pages in the text.”  In the past five months, this piece of commonsense legislation has made it no further than referral to the Committee on House Rules. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a modified version of the bill to the Senate in 2015, where it was read twice and referred to the Committee on Rules and Administration. No action has been taken on it since.

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