Pelosi reverses on 72 hour promises?

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Soren Dayton

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Nov 6, 2009, 3:49:18 PM11/6/09
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http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/11/pelosi_breaks_pledge_to_put_he.asp

Pelosi Breaks Pledge to Put Final Health Care Bill Online for 72 Hours Before Vote

Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that the speaker will not allow the final language of the health care to be posted online for 72 hours before bringing the bill to a vote on the House floor, despite her September 24 statement that she was "absolutely" committed to doing so.

House members are still negotiating important issues in the bill--whether it will provide taxpayer-funding for abortions, for example. Pelosi is pushing for a Saturday House vote, and a number of big changes will be introduced, likely less than 24 hours before the vote takes place (if in fact it does). The Rules Committee hasn't yet released its resolution, or rule, that must be passed before the bill can move from committee to the floor. The rule will set the terms of debate and determine what amendments are in order.

It seems likely that the rule will allow very few, if any, up-or-down votes on amendments on the House floor. Rather, the rule will include a series of amendments that will all be adopted at once if the rule passes.

On September 24, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that she was "absolutely" committed to putting the text of the final House bill online for 72 hours before the House votes:

TWS: Madam Speaker, do you support the measure to put the final House bill online for 72 hours before it's voted on at the very end?

PELOSI: Absolutely. Without question.

But tonight, when asked if Speaker Pelosi will leave the bill online for 72 hours after we see what's in the rule, Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly replied in an email: "No; [the] pledge was to have manager’s amendment online for 72 hours, and we will do that."

Apparently Pelosi's agreement to leave the "final" bill online "at the very end" of the process wasn't such a straightforward pledge.


John Wonderlich

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Nov 6, 2009, 4:38:37 PM11/6/09
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They promised the bill and the mgr's amendment online for 72 hours, and that is happening.

This article conflates the bill/mgr's amendment with the rules committee's rule.

Soren Dayton

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Nov 6, 2009, 4:48:02 PM11/6/09
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Which of the following are you saying:

1. Everything currently under negotiation will get included via one or more separate votes.
2. They will be folded into the bill by the rules committee. They will not get votes, but this is outside the scope of a 72 hour promise.
3. They will be folded into the bill by a self-executing rule, thereby not giving them votes. While functionally identical to (2) it would be procedurally different.

1 seems to be the only one consistent with the spirit of the 72 hour rule, no? And does anyone on this list believe that Dem leadership would give an up-or-down vote on that or that the people cutting a deal would allow it?

Or is there some other understanding you have?

Jim Harper

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Nov 6, 2009, 4:49:36 PM11/6/09
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I agree that the Weekly Standard is over-reading the situation (probably for partisan effect), but we will learn later whether the material posted for 72 hours is all the substance, or whether new important changes come into the bill over the weekend.

Wrote about it here:

http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2009/11/06/the-house-health-care-bill-%E2%80%94-transparent-or-not/

Jim Harper




On Fri, Nov 6, 2009 at 4:38 PM, John Wonderlich <johnwon...@gmail.com> wrote:

Bill Allison

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Nov 6, 2009, 4:47:39 PM11/6/09
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Well, it sounds like she answered the Weekly Standard question in a misleading way. If I were the Standard, I'd run the quote I got from her exactly the same way and point to the discrepancy between what she told us and what's happening.

That said, I don't there's any question the process could be much better. What's the rush to vote on a version of a bill that won't take effect until 2013 by Saturday? A vote on Tuesday, or the following Tuesday, would cause the Republic to fall?

John Wonderlich

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Nov 6, 2009, 5:06:42 PM11/6/09
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On Fri, Nov 6, 2009 at 4:48 PM, Soren Dayton <soren....@gmail.com> wrote:
Which of the following are you saying:

1. Everything currently under negotiation will get included via one or more separate votes.
2. They will be folded into the bill by the rules committee. They will not get votes, but this is outside the scope of a 72 hour promise.
3. They will be folded into the bill by a self-executing rule, thereby not giving them votes. While functionally identical to (2) it would be procedurally different.

1 seems to be the only one consistent with the spirit of the 72 hour rule, no? And does anyone on this list believe that Dem leadership would give an up-or-down vote on that or that the people cutting a deal would allow it?

Or is there some other understanding you have?

I'm saying none of those things.  I'm just saying that the promise was regarding the bill, and the bill is online.  To suggest that the rules committee's rule violates the promise is to intentionally misread the promise, which was specifically about the mgr's amendment and the bill.  The article does that, and it's inauthentic.

Now, it's a separate question to talk about the spirit of the 72 hour rule, or what's the most open process, or what the rules committee should do, or should be permitted to do.  On to your questions --


1. Everything currently under negotiation will get included via one or more separate votes.

Probably not.


2. They will be folded into the bill by the rules committee. They will not get votes, but this is outside the scope of a 72 hour promise.

It's certainly outside the scope of Pelosi's promise, but not outside the scope of what we can judge and discuss.  It's not "a" 72 hour promise, it's something specific that was promised, and that was delivered.


3. They will be folded into the bill by a self-executing rule, thereby not giving them votes. While functionally identical to (2) it would be procedurally different.

yes


1 seems to be the only one consistent with the spirit of the 72 hour rule, no? And does anyone on this list believe that Dem leadership would give an up-or-down vote on that or that the people cutting a deal would allow it?

The "spirit of the 72 hour rule" is a vague standard to invoke at this stage in the process.  It seems to me that content-based changes made by the rules committee to legislation remove opportunities to public scrutiny and Members' debate.  It also seems to me that there is no serious proposal to change how the rules committee works, which is something that the leadership in both parties are happy to use when they control it.

The one exception to that is the proposal to wire the Rules committee for video, which is certainly valuable.  All the committees should have video.
 

John Wonderlich

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Nov 6, 2009, 5:11:39 PM11/6/09
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The difference is in the questions.  These two things are different:

putting the text of the final House bill online
> for 72 hours before the House votes:

(or in the questioners words) to put the final House bill

> online for 72 hours before it's voted on at the very end?


is different from:

leave the bill online for 72
> hours after we see what's in the rule,


Those are clearly two different things.  The final bill was promised online, it was delivered online.  The rule is a different, and valid, issue.

Soren Dayton

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Nov 6, 2009, 5:18:13 PM11/6/09
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So, what's the point of a 72 hour rule if the rules committee rewrites either the bill or the managers amendment?

Perhaps the rules get a 72 hour cooling off period. Currently, the House rules provide for a 24 hour, but it is regularly waived by a separate rule. But at least that's an on-the-record vote. (note that it will happen here)

It seems to me that we have some of the most politically hot stuff here, and it is worth the lookie. To my mind, *that's the point*

Right?

John Wonderlich

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Nov 6, 2009, 5:25:25 PM11/6/09
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Now we're talking.

I can imagine such a requirement for the rules committee, but I can imagine that being excessively dilatory.

Is there a procedural change that could require rules to be content-agnostic?  I can imagine committee chairs supporting such a move, since rules committee rewrites ultimately undermine their influence (I think).

Then again, wouldn't any such requirement be subject to the whim of a special rule?

(Incidentally, this is the problem I wonder about with the Senate -- what procedural requirements can possibly be reliably self-imposed in a chamber that operates on the basis of constant unanimous consent?)

Soren Dayton

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Nov 6, 2009, 6:05:20 PM11/6/09
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The senate is easier. "There'll always be one a**hole or man of principle" ... :) Coburn and Feingold with a sporadic dose of McCain ought to be enough.

The problem with the House is the tyranny of the majority.

In the House, you are always at the whim of a special rule. But you at least get to force the bad guys to take a vote on it.  In fact, that's probably the answer. You make a transparency pledge in the House which is a pledge to vote no on waiving the 72 hour rule. It is nice and simple and specific. Either you are for hiding the ball or against it.

Josh Tauberer

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Nov 6, 2009, 6:35:15 PM11/6/09
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On 11/06/2009 06:05 PM, Soren Dayton wrote:
> In the House, you are always at the whim of a special rule. But you at
> least get to force the bad guys to take a vote on it. In fact, that's
> probably the answer. You make a transparency pledge in the House which
> is a pledge to vote no on waiving the 72 hour rule.

You can't strategize this. The problem with the 72 hours rule is that if
there was enough support for it, we wouldn't need the rule in the first
place. And even with a rule, if the Members don't believe in it they'll
undo or circumvent it.

I've always found this topic fascinating and each time it comes up I
feel like I learn something about the power structure of Congress. And
maybe something about humanity too!

No one is against people reading bills, in principle. It's a trade-off.
Achieving your policy goal is more important than everyone reading the
fine print. Following the leadership is more important than objecting
that you haven't read the text. These are very powerful forces. Trying
to get a 72 hour rule passed is like trying to... uhm... pull a balloon
under water. Rather than pulling the balloon harder, it's probably
easier to just reduce the density of the water.... oh no, I mean....
drain the bathtub. Okay, that metaphor didn't work. I'll think of
another one for the next time this comes up.

J

John Wonderlich

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Nov 6, 2009, 6:47:02 PM11/6/09
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Good point.

There's an even deeper problem here:

Let's say you require all bills to be online for 72 hours, and all amendments online for 72 hours.

If that's the case, it's now almost useless for the public or for Members to read the bill, because they can't amend it. (!) Public scrutiny is, at that point, reduced to "vote for or against".

At some point, political manipulation will come into play, because that's the same point in the process where citizen feedback can be incorporated, to refine the bill.

How ever far back in the process you require public scrutiny, the real negotiations (those about changing the language, at least) will continue fervently to exactly that point.



The managers amendment isn't real; it's just shorthand for the leadership-backed amendment usually offered by the bill's sponsor.  Requiring the manager's amendment to be online, in order to necessarily work (at least through rules), requires ALL amendments to be online, invoking the above described paradox...

Procedure-based public scrutiny requirements necessarily involve (by definition) a freeze on congressional action, which is itself a big part of the reason the public scrutiny is valuable in the first place.

Soren Dayton

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Nov 6, 2009, 8:06:27 PM11/6/09
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Worst case, you only need 20-30 people in the majority to take down the rule. That's enough. You don't need to persuade 218. The minority will always want to not get screwed. That's the nature of the game. The question is whether you can get the difference on a rule.

On Fri, Nov 6, 2009 at 6:35 PM, Josh Tauberer <taub...@govtrack.us> wrote:

Kathy and Ernie

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Nov 7, 2009, 12:32:50 AM11/7/09
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The analogy had holes but the message is 100% dead- on, Josh (at least
the way i understand power and humanity).

Josh brings up the big question, the reason I read every single
sunlight-related post that comes to me: we're going to keep at it
because we must- but how do we make people in control do what just a
few of us want? And I mean really do it, not say it and then make 40
special rules against it. Yes, they are elected, but I don't kid
myself that I am represented. Openness seems to work best when you
can 'trick' Power into doing something it thinks is harmless.
Hopefully the eventual fruit from the tree is worthwhile, but it won't
look like the seed did. They won't just put on a collar because a few
of us asked. Great. Now I'm mixing metaphors.

I still support Read the Bill strongly and am doing what I can to make
friends and strangers alike aware that it even exists, i'm just a
liitle down on the illusion of representative government right now.
Or, i'm not seeing the road from here to there.




Sent from my iPhone

Josh Tauberer

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Nov 8, 2009, 5:55:09 PM11/8/09
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On 11/07/2009 12:32 AM, Kathy and Ernie wrote:
> but how do we make people in control do what just a
> few of us want? And I mean really do it, not say it and then make 40
> special rules against it.

I don't think there's an easy answer here, and it's because none of the
"symptoms" that we think are problematic have a simple cause or even a
root cause. The read-the-bill problem traces back to party power. Party
power is a result of having a two-party system, majority-rules for most
decisions, the fact that the parties are ideologically aligned so that
for most people there's really no choice for which one to join, the fact
that it is more difficult to get recognition during an election if you
are not associated with a major party, which in turn has to do with the
failure of the media to scrutinize politicians....

The closest to a root cause that I can think of is that the public is
not as involved in civics as they might be. It's far too difficult to
know what is going on to expect more. But imagine how things might be if
as many people voted in primaries as in the generals. For one, the fund
raising would be earlier and less party-oriented, as candidates try to
distinguish themselves from other candidates in the same party. If there
are more serious primary contentions, candidates may feel less obligated
to their party later on, rather than probably feeling hand-picked by the
elders as I'm sure many are now. And less party power means Members
might be more willing to stick their neck out for the read the bill
campaign.

On this mail list, I think our role is to imagine what our ideal
Congress would look like --- with a particular emphasis on technology
since that's how this project began. We can go for the low-hanging
fruit, like "more XML". But the big problems in Congress are not going
to be fixed by focusing on Congress alone.

- Josh Tauberer
- CivicImpulse / GovTrack.us

http://razor.occams.info | www.govtrack.us | civicimpulse.com

"Members of both sides are reminded not to use guests of the
House as props."
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