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On October 6, 2009, eight members of the United States Senate—Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.)—sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) calling for more transparency and public participation in the healthcare reform process. To ensure that they and the American people will have an opportunity to read and analyze the legislation, the Senators requested that no vote come before the Senate until 72 hours after Senator Reid has released both his bill and its full score from the CBO.
In part, the letter reads:
By publicly posting the legislation and its CBO scores 72 hours before it is brought to a vote in the Senate and by publishing the text of amendments before they are debated, our constituents will have the opportunity to evaluate these policies and communicate their concerns or their message of support to their Members of Congress. As their democratically-elected representatives in Washington, D.C., it is our duty to listen to their concerns and to provide them with the chance to respond to proposals that will impact their lives. At a time when trust in Congress and the U.S. government is unprecedentedly low, we can begin to rebuild the American people's faith in their federal government through transparency and by actively inviting Americans to participate in the legislative process.
Now, however, these Senators' plea is being ignored. With Senator Nelson announcing this morning that he will join fellow Democrats in a party line vote in favor of a government takeover of the healthcare system, Majority Leader Reid plans to force a vote to end debate on his bill on Monday at 1 am. The final version of the legislation, however, was just unveiled and the CBO's estimate of its cost was released earlier today. Neither was made public 72 hours prior to the cloture vote scheduled for Monday.
When one considers that in order to read a 2,000 page bill in 72 hours, one would have to read 28 pages an hour for 3 days straight with no breaks and no sleep, the request made by the 8 members of the Democratic caucus is far from unreasonable. And, this time estimate doesn’t even include how long it would take to read the CBO cost analysis. Still, providing the public—and members of the Senate—with the chance to read the legislation before ramming it through will help to ensure that the American people are not completely left out of the process. Ignoring such a request is unacceptable, unconscionable and a complete perversion of the Democratic process that our founders fought and died to create.
These 8 Senators should stay true to the promise that they made to the American people and refuse to vote on a bill that has not been available for 72 hours. If they do not, their constituents should make sure that they do not have the opportunity to further betray the public's trust by voting them out of office.