Little noticed during the final agonizing throes of the House Democrat Impeachment Hearings was a budget bill that was snuck through with a vote in the dead of night. Like so many before it, this bill spent billions of dollars. There were no hearings I know of on it, and it was put together by lobbyists and leadership members, who, in effect, did all the legislating. The Senate and House regular members, facing an imminent government shut down, by design, were forced into a horrible choice — approve the spending, or shut down the government. And the biggest problem of all, was that the members had no idea what was in the bill, or the previous budget bill, or the other bills like it, or any of the continuing resolutions, or any spending bill, where all the provisions of the bill only appear in the bill after the bill is passed. The members had no time to read the bill, to ask questions, to think of other options, to make amendments, to consult their constituents, to talk about it on the media so the public would be informed, in fact no legislative function was allowed at all because of the incredible time constraints and the pressure to just do it now! That is completely unacceptable.
This new standard of budgets and appropriations, so eloquently articulated by Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the Obamacare debate, that you have to “pass the bill to see what’s in it,” is in fact, legislation in reverse, and it is the current standard of Congressional budgeting. That, is unconstitutional. It is not in a Republican form of government to have leadership and lobbyists budget by secret deal in return for campaign and other contributions from their favorite lobbyists. That’s bribery, or in the current trendy language, a quid pro quo. Lobbyists cannot replace legislators in a Republic, and leadership cannot replace membership in the House and Senate. Fortunately, there is a rather simple solution.
1. No bill which includes a budget, a continuing resolution, a reset of the Debt Ceiling, an appropriation, or any bill with an expenditure beyond $10 million dollars, shall be put up for a final vote of the House and Senate, until there has been a separate for each bill, public disclosure and comment time period of 30 days, on a public internet site, from the date any of such bills are placed in their final form. Publication of any such bill shall take place after all individual votes, and any conference votes, for both the House and Senate. This bill is intended for public disclosure and comment of the final form of the bill, not bills that are still in process.
2. Any amendments to any of the bills that fall under the criteria for a 30 day public disclosure and comment period, after that period has ended, shall result in an additional 7 days of public disclosure and comment for the amendments, such that no provision of any bill covered by this Act makes it into law without some period of disclosure and comment.
3. There shall be no exceptions to this law except for a declared war by an Act of Congress and signed by the President.
4. There shall be no exception because of a recess, holiday, the end of the current session, or any other calendar reason. Plan for all these ahead of time.
5. There shall especially be no exceptions for imminent government shutdowns. If the government shuts down during the 30 day public disclosure and comment period, then it stays shut down until the 30 days are finished.
6. There shall especially be no exception to the 30 day comment period for raising the Debt Ceiling. This, like a government shut down, are known well in advance, such that the only reason for not planning ahead is to use the time crunch as leverage to pass such measures without any disclosure, even to the members of Congress who vote on such measures. So again, if the Debt Ceiling is reached before or during the 30 day disclosure and comment period, then the Debt Ceiling stays where it is, and Congress will be required to cut spending to meet the Debt Ceiling.
7. Before any bill is released to the public for disclosure and comment, the Congressional Budget Office shall create a summary of the major provisions of the bill, and add such charts, graphs, and visual aids, as necessary, to make the bill clearly understood to regular citizens. All such materials will become part of the record of the bill.
8. This Act is intended to inspire the media to do in-depth investigations of all such bills covered by this Act, and report to the public their findings. The media is especially encouraged to report: hidden, unrelated, crony, special interest, single company or person beneficiaries, or any codicil of the bill that has the appearance of favorable treatment from any Member of Congress to any other group, party, company, or individual, especially if that party in any way contributes to that Member.
9. It is the intention of this Act that once the information on a bill has been disclosed, the public will then make their views known to their Congressional Representatives and Senators, and anyone else, as this will all be public information.
10. Classified information and budgets can not be made public for specific programs, but the categories of expenditure and the general areas of expenditure certainly can. Congress shall insure that secret information, budgets, programs, and classified material and information, are not disclosed. However, “classification” shall not be used as a tactic to withhold non-classified information that might be embarrassing, or a deal, or quid pro quo, or any other area of interest previously mentioned, that if revealed would call into question the necessity, desirability, or even legality, of the provision.
11. It is also on behalf of the Senators and Representatives who want to actually do a good job and be fiscally responsible that this Act is being written, so they have the same 30 days of discovery, disclosure and debate, before they have to vote.
12. It is not the intention of this Act to introduce any more Democracy into our Republic than has already been done. It is not the intention of this Act to have the public think that they have any decision power at all over a bill currently before Congress, other than the ability to communicate their views or participate in polls. There is no provision in this Act for the citizenry to vote in any way on covered financial bills in advance of being voted on by Congress, that has any effect whatsoever on Congress. Such a provision would be prohibited by this Act which reaffirms Congress as the sole legislative power in the Federal Government. The sole purpose of this Act is for opening up the budget process to all Members of Congress, the media, and the general public, all for disclosure and comment over a 30 day period, for a bill in it’s final form.
13. The Office of the Speaker of the House, and the Office of the Senate President, shall insure that all bills that fall under the 30 day disclosure and comment period are so designated in the bill itself. Should this fail to happen, and the willful avoidance of public disclosure is suspected, any ten members of the House, or any four members of the Senate, can petition to put such designation on the appropriate bills. Failure to respond to such petitions will table the bills from all further action until the matter is resolved.