The House today is scheduled to vote on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, a sweeping piece of legislation that will establish a program to cap emissions of pollutants and a system for trading emission permits. I won't go into too much detail for two reasons: for starters, OpenCongress has covered it quite extensively. However, the larger reason is because I have no clue what's actually contained in the bill being debated today.
My colleague Paul Blumenthal describes what's happening in more detail, but the basic gist of the situation is thus: the House will debate H.R. 2998 as a substitute amendment to the original bill, H.R. 2454. Complicating matters is the sheer length of the bill -- H.R. 2454 weighed in at 1091 pages. The substitute bill that was dropped this week is 1,200 pages long! And, as if to add insult to injury, there are 300 pages of material included today based upon committee action yesterday.
I wrote last week that OpenCongress can be an incredible resource for citizens, reporters and activists looking for information on Congress, but cautioned that this is only true when Congress makes that information available. With the case of the American Clean Energy And Security Act, this simply wasn't possible. Members of the House were given precious little time to determine the policy outcomes of this legislation, due to its size, the different versions released, and the time frame provided for action (Speaker Nancy Pelosi had sought a vote before next week's 4th of July recess). Members of the public were given even less time.
My colleagues at the Sunlight Foundation argue that lawmakers should be required to post legislation online for 72 hours before voting. That would ensure everybody -- from Senators and Representatives to bloggers, reporters and citizens -- would have time to read the bill. I sure didn't.
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