The Senate is poised to pass its version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act today, setting the stage for a conference to reconcile its differences with the House. Throughout the debate over the economic stimulus bill, there has been plenty of talk about transparency but little done to achieve it. There is, however, another opportunity.
The Sunlight Foundation is spearheading an effort to convince Congress it should put the legislation online for public review at least 72 hours before its final consideration. Sunlight also wants President Barack Obama to keep his campaign promise of posting the bill five days before he signs it into law.
It is unclear when Obama will begin fulfilling his pledge for the five-day public comment period. Two pieces of legislation — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and State Children’s Health Insurance Program — weren’t considered emergencies, yet Obama failed to wait the five days he promised. Spokesman Tommy Vietor gave this lame excuse: “We will be implementing this policy in full soon; currently we are working through implementation procedures and some initial issues with the congressional calendar.”
The only emergency facing the stimulus is the public’s growing dislike for it. Obama and his liberal cohorts know the longer it faces scrutiny, the more likely it is to sink under its own weight.
From the start of the stimulus debate, conservatives have challenged Obama to live up to his transparency talk. House Republican Whip Eric Cantor secured an early pledge from the president to track the stimulus spending in real time. Given the size and scope of the bill, Americans should demand time to scrutinize its contents — before Congress votes and before Obama signs it into law.
Few issues unite conservatives and liberals like government transparency. Obama’s failure to deliver will disappoint not just his harshest critics but also his staunchest allies. Send the White House an email reminding Obama of his promise.