The Big Think

September 26, 2009

Promises, Promises (UPDATED)

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 5:46 pm

President Obama promised on the campaign trail that he would have the most transparent administration in history. As part of this commitment, he said that the public would have five days to look online and find out what was in the bills that came to his desk before he signed them.

Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee have refused to allow the final text of their health care bill to be posted online prior to their vote on it. The Democrats claim it’s too technically difficult; in reality, of course, they don’t want voters to have an opportunity to see the bill and react to it before it becomes a fait accompli. The Democrats have brought a lack of transparency to Washington that may be unprecedented in our history. link

Look, I hate doing this, because I know that many of my friends are on the other side of the aisle, and I’ve said before that my friendships are more important than a politician in Washington who will never know my name, but when the most major piece of legislation to be written in the last generation is hidden from the public- in direct contravention of a promise by our President- I can’t stay quiet. I would ask “who do they think they are?!?!”, but by their actions the people in DC have shown exactly who they think they are: our betters who know better than us and brook no interference.

Somewhere, someone did a cost/benefit analysis of hiding the legislation until it becomes law, and they decided that the public anger at being left out of the loop is worse than the anger they would face if we knew what was in the bill.

Think about that.

They would rather face the rabid fury of a public denied a period of commenting on major legislation (something that was promised to us by a candidate), than face the anger that would result if the public got a chance to read the bill before it becomes law. Makes you wonder what’s in this thing…


it’s been leaked online. Now the congress gets the worst of BOTH worlds. The anger at being left out of the loop AND the fury of knowing what’s in it.

Tar. Feather. Rail.

Friend Daniel points out in a comment (sorry for the wonky comment system):

Gotta point out that the Senate Finance Committee not posting the final text of their bill has nothing whatsoever to do with Obama’s campaign promise. He’s neither the president of the senate nor the chair of the finance committee. I don’t have much of an opinion over whether or not they should have the text posted–probably so, but I don’t know what standard practice is for the committees. I do know that Congress as a whole has already sought an unprecedented (at least in recent memory) level of input from the public on the subject of health care reform, so trying to paint this as evidence of unparalleled lack of transparancy is pretty unfair, I think. And at any rate, we’re still a long way from a bill that Obama could even post as proposed legislation. The finance committee’s version has to be reconciled with the other Senate committees’ versions, which will then be cussed and discussed by the Senate as a whole, which will then be voted on, which will then be reconciled with the House’s version, which will then and only then be sent to the president. There is plllleeeeennnty of time for public comment and outrage. And if at that time he fails to provide his promised five days of opportunity for public review and comment, by all means call him out as a hypocrit. But until then, criticisms such as this one are mischaracterizations, and quite unfair.

And keep the political stuff coming. No need to apologize for it. I suspect that most of your friends on the opposite side of the political aisle are also grownups who don’t need to have their own opinions reflected back at them from all directions…;)

Fair point about congress not being responsible for the president’s campaign promises. I stand corrected. I do note, though, that on the eleven occasions that the President did have a chance to post the text of a bill before he signed it, he only did so once. Here’s hoping he allows the text to be posted before he does this one.

As to most of my friends being grownups, well… I know better, but that’s a good thing. 🙂

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