The Wall Street Journal's John Fund wrote a telling piece this weekend: "Congress Needs a 72-Hour Waiting Period." See the following excerpt:
Polls show overwhelming agreement outside the Beltway that it's more important for Congress to get health-care reform done right than done quickly. A Polling Company survey conducted last month found 95% agreeing that members of Congress shouldn't vote on any bill they haven't read in full.
That's why the bipartisan duo of Rep. Brian Baird, a Washington Democrat, and Rep. Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican, came up with the "72-hour resolution," which would require all non-emergency legislation to be posted online, in final form, for at least 72 hours prior to a floor vote. "Members of Congress are too often asked to make decisions on bills that can be longer than telephone books and are only given a few hours to actually read them," says Rep. Baird. "Both parties are guilty, and both should stop doing it."
Although Barack Obama campaigned last year for transparency and openness in government, their idea has languished in committee since June. It has 67 Republican and 31 Democratic co-sponsors—a rare show of bipartisanship. Normally, bills can't be considered for a floor vote until House leadership schedules them. That's why Messrs. Baird and Walden filed a discharge petition to dislodge their bill from committee this week. If a majority of members (218) sign it, their proposal can be voted on over the objections of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
But the notion of a 72-hour waiting period is anathema to Democrats who fear that they are running out of time to pass a sweeping health-care bill. This week, White House Budget Director Peter Orszag told Bloomberg News that "the goal" is to finish the entire health-care debate "over the next six weeks or so, maybe sooner." The six-week deadline is critical because it would mean a health-care bill would pass into law just before voters in Virginia and New Jersey go to the polls on Nov. 3 to elect a governor and state legislators. Right now, the GOP leads in both states and nervous Democrats see that as a measure of their stalled health-care reform plans.
So it appears Democratic leaders in both houses of Congress have decided to ram a bill through as quickly as possible. On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee voted 12 to 11 to reject a proposal to require a 72-hour waiting period and a full scoring of the bill by the Congressional Budget Office before the committee casts any final vote. Only one Democrat, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, voted for the waiting period. Chairman Max Baucus said the idea would delay a vote on the final bill for two weeks and he didn't want to waste another moment.
On the House side, Mrs. Pelosi has told reporters that members will have "a period of time that is sufficient" to consider the final health-care language. But she clearly doesn't want her hands tied. House leadership aides were stationed on the House floor where members must go to sign the 72-hour discharge petition. Mr. Baird acknowledged that leadership aides were strongly discouraging his fellow Democrats from signing. As of yesterday, 173 members had affixed their names, but they included only five of the 31 Democratic co-sponsors.
Mr. Baird isn't phased. "If Americans contact their representative and encourage him or her to sign this discharge petition, I'm confident it will become law," he told me.
Mr. Baird, a six-term incumbent, isn't a natural rebel against his party's leadership. He supports health-care reform that expands coverage to the uninsured and would ban insurance companies from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions. As a licensed clinical psychologist, he has 23 years of experience treating patients suffering from brain injuries as well as victims of strokes and cancer.