Health Care Bill to be Online for 72 Hours Before Final House Vote — Pelosi Is the Transparency Leader?

The Sunlight Foundation cites this tweet, and newspapers confirm, that the House leadership has promised to put the final health care bill online for 72 hours before a final vote.

“The move came after Rep. Scott Murphy, D-N.Y., urged colleagues to join him in asking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., for a three-day time-out before any floor vote,” reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Kudos to Representative Murphy for bringing this up. Congratulations to the Sunlight Foundation for organizing the closely related Read the Bill campaign, which is pressuring Congress to post bills online for 72 hours before debate begins.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s unfulfilled transparency promises are beginning to draw derision not only from political partisans but from the mainstream media. For example, the L.A. Times “Top of the Ticket” blog mocked the administration yesterday in a post called, “Joe Biden Update: He Meets on Transparency Today. But the Meeting is Closed.”

[T]oday’s Biden schedule highlight is a meeting with the chief of transparency for economic recovery. But, unfortunately, the transparency meeting is non-transparent, closed to the press… Which makes it — what? — secret openness? Open secrecy?

That post cites this one at a site called Media-ite, where columnist Tommy Christopher bemoans the president’s failure to see through his promise to put health care negotiations on C-SPAN.

Secret negotiations like the one between the pharmaceutical lobby, the White House, and the Senate Finance Committee are the Obama pledge’s raison d’etre. Hours of debate and information are nice, but the real value of transparency is in keeping everyone honest. By meeting with insurance and pharmaceutical industry leaders in private, the administration has shielded the parties most in need of being kept honest, the ones most likely to poison the process.

If you had asked people a year ago whether President Obama or Speaker Pelosi would be the leader in legislative transparency, I don’t think many would have bet on the latter. This is not to say that the process has been transparent enough — the production of the health care bill has been quite opaque compared to what’s possible and desirable. But Pelosi is the current leader on transparency, if only by substantial default.