As a campaigner, President Obama promised that bills sent him by Congress would be posted online for five days before he would sign them. It’s a simple, measurable transparency promise that we have followed on this blog.
With attention beginning to turn to the 2012 presidential election (believe it or not!), President Obama’s fealty to campaign promises will become a focus. So here’s an update on his Sunlight Before Signing promise.
First, a brief summary table. Congress has presented President Obama 283 bills, 124 in 2009 and 159 in 2010. He posted six online for the requisite number of days in 2009, and 103 in 2010. (One emergency bill did not require posting. It’s non-posting is consistent with the president’s promise so we treat it as “compliant” in summary materials.)
|Number of Bills||Emergency Bills||Bills Posted Five Days|
The graph below illustrates well that the administration has improved on the, frankly, lousy start it got with Sunlight Before Signing. In the month of May, every bill was posted on Whitehouse.gov for five days before the president signed it.
There remains a residuum of bills that don’t seem to get Sunlight Before Signing, and those may be the ones where political expedience takes precedence over the president’s campaign promise to his voters. But the White House is clearly positioned to fulfill this promise completely in the second half of the president’s term.
The chart below (that is, after the break) exhibits the same data—Sunlight Before Signing compliance by month—with percentages of non-compliance and compliance. After that, you’ll find a table of every bill the president has signed and its treatment in terms of sunlight.
There will be a short spate of bills during the lame duck session. The next report in late December will capture the entire first half of the president’s term, setting the stage for reporting on the White House’s 100% success rate in 2011 and 2012.
Full compliance will give the press and public a way to know exactly what hits the president’s desk, and an opportunity to make a habit of reviewing Congress’ work before bills become laws.
Sunlight Before Signing, Month-by-Month (%)
|Did Not Receive Promised Sunlight||Received Promised Sunlight|
|January||1 (100%)||0 (0%)|
|February||3 (75%)||1 (25%)|
|March||6 (100%)||0 (0%)|
|April||7 (100%)||0 (0%)|
|May||6 (100%)||0 (0%)|
|June||15 (100%)||0 (0%)|
|July||6 (100%)||0 (0%)|
|August||16 (100%)||0 (0%)|
|September||9 (100%)||0 (0%)|
|October||24 (100%)||0 (0%)|
|November||17 (100%)||0 (0%)|
|December||8 (62%)||5 (38%)|
|January||11 (85%)||2 (15%)|
|February||5 (100%)||0 (0%)|
|March||7 (64%)||4 (36%)|
|April||5 (50%)||5 (50%)|
|May||0 (0%)||13 (100%)|
|June||4 (19%)||17 (81%)|
|July||10 (36%)||18 (64%)|
|August||3 (27%)||8 (73%)|
|September||8 (24%)||26 (76%)|
|October||2 (15%)||11 (85%)|
Sunlight Before Signing, Bill-by-Bill
(Parentheses indicate a separate Whitehouse.gov page with a link to Thomas legislative database)
* Page now gone, but it was either directly observed, evidence of it appears in Whitehouse.gov search, or White House says it existed.
[Brackets indicate a link from Whitehouse.gov to Thomas legislative database]
† Bill was posted for five days after final passage, though not formal presentment. Counted as “Yes.”
‡ Link to final version of bill on impossible-to-find page.
E! Emergency legislation not subject to five-day posting. Counted as “Yes” in simplifying graphs and tables.