It's Undemocratic To Read Before You Vote?

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) introduced a discharge petition last Wednesday that would compel House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to permit a vote on a House rule change that would force a bit of transparency on the Democrat leadership. House Resolution 554 would require that all major legislation be posted on the web for public review for a minimum of 72 hours before it could be brought to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. No more dropping thousand-page bills and hundreds of pages of amendments at the last minute barring not only the public but members of Congress from reading the bills — forcing votes on legislation members haven’t been allowed or given the time to read.

The discharge petition has a bit of momentum, garnering 178 signatures in three days. 218 signatures are required to force the vote on the bi-partisan discharge resolution authored by Reps. John Culberson (R-Texas) and Brian Baird (D-Wash.). Five rank-and-file Democrats, including Baird, have signed the petition, publicly bucking their leadership.

On Friday Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) moved to thwart the progress made by this Walden/Baird insurrection. At the behest of Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Walz sent a “Dear Leader Colleague” letter applauding Pelosi and Hoyer for their “transparency and openness” in the legislative process, as if they’d actually been letting members and the public read the bills before votes. He said the Walden/Baird resolution isn’t necessary as House rules, “already require… such a period of time be made available to members for review of legislation and the drafting of amendments.” Walz asks for fellow Democrats to step into the Orwellian Zone with him and sign the letter in support of Pelosi and Hoyer’s current open and transparent legislative process. You can’t make this stuff up.

What Walz deliberately left out of his letter is that the current House Rules aren’t working. Pelosi and Hoyer have shoved a horrifying succession of bills through the House including the trillion-dollar so-called stimulus spending bill, the national cap and trade energy tax, dropping hundreds of pages of amendments at 3:00 am the morning of the vote. In an effort to avoid public scrutiny, Pelosi’s massive “omnibus” spending bill had over 9,000 earmarks that were dropped into the bill at the very last minute.

The sad part is, even though the entire country knows it’s not true, the overwhelming majority of Democrats will not sign the discharge petition because of Pelosi’s arm-twisting, and the petition probably won’t get enough signatures to bring the matter to the floor. The Dems are quite comfortable with the lack of transparency in the legislative process under their Dear Leaders. And they don’t see a need to honor the wishes of the American people by giving their representatives time to actually read a bill before they have to vote on it.

House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio supports the discharge petition and has been leading a drive to get signatures.

“The American people are angry that Speaker Pelosi didn’t allow the public and their elected representatives to read the trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ bill or the national energy tax before they were rammed through the House,” Boehner said. “They have every right to be angry. Look at the results. We’ve lost more than 2.5 million jobs since the ‘stimulus’ bill passed, and yet after the fact we found that it included nearly a million dollars for Rep. Murtha’s ‘airport for no one.’ Months after House Democrats passed Speaker Pelosi’s national energy tax, we learned of a secret Obama Administration analysis showing such a ‘cap-and-trade’ scheme will raise costs for American families by an average of $1,700 a year.”

“Congress can, and must, do better,” Boehner added.

We’ll keep an eye on the discharge petition signature count.

House Rams Through More Spending

The Democrats on Friday shoved through the Legislative Branch Appropriations funding, attaching a continuing resolution (CR) which extended the funding for the federal government through October 31, 2009 at the current 2009 levels. The CR also extended highway funding and supplemental appropriation levels for defense in 2009.

Rep. Tom Price, M.D. (R-Ga.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, exposed the reason for Pelosi folding the CR into the unrelated legislation.

“Republicans drafted a positive alternative solution to this continuing resolution that would save taxpayers $84 billion,” Price said. “True to form, Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats in power would not allow it to be voted on by the full House of Representatives. Are they worried some of their members might actually believe that saving $84 billion is a good idea? Our nation is on the brink of bankruptcy, yet Democrats in charge continue to spend with reckless abandon. It speaks volumes that those in charge won’t even allow a vote on our cost-saving amendment.”

“This is just another example of the Democrat lack of leadership pretending that Republican solutions don’t exist,” Price added. “Perhaps they don’t believe the problems caused by running up $11.8 trillion in debt can be solved by spending less money. Their refusal to allow a vote on an amendment that saves $84 billion proves once again that they have no plan to deal with their skyrocketing deficits. This is a reckless decision.”

Senate Finance Committee Health Care Amendments Voted on Friday

Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) #C-10: The amendment would prohibit the federal government from limiting consumer choice by defining the health care benefits offered through private insurance. Failed 9-14.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) #C-2: (As modified): Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) Transparency for Health Plans Operating in the Health Insurance Exchanges. Passed by voice vote.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) #C-23: (As modified): Requires that all amendments accepted or ruled out-of-order during the Finance Committee’s consideration of the America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009 be re-scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) for accuracy. Failed 11-12 (Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) voted yes).

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) #C-15: Narrow the Age Rating Band. The amendment will replace the 5:1 age rating band in the Chairman‘s Mark with a 2:1 age rating band. Taking together all permissible risk factors, premiums within a family category could not vary by more than a 3:1 composite ratio. Withdrawn.

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) #C-10: Any czar handling health care issues shall be subject to the Senate confirmation process. Failed 10-13.

The Senate Finance Committee resumes markup of its health care outline on Tuesday at 9:30 am.