White House Solicits Public Comment On Economic Stimulus Plan
Less than four weeks after Inauguration Day, the White House appears to be making good on promises to post bills for public review and comment.
It's unclear whether the White House posted the economic stimulus bill five days before its approval.
Transparency watchdogs may not know until Tuesday whether the new administration fulfilled its promise on posting nonemergency legislation early enough to draw public comment.
Observers believe President Obama will sign the economic stimulus package into law by Monday.
If he does go ahead with plans for approval on Presidents' Day, the new administration will be pretty close to hitting the mark on its promise to post all nonemergency legislation on the White House Web site five days before signing to allow for public review and comment.
After Congress announced a compromise deal on the economic stimulus package late Wednesday, some critics began to complain that the legislation hadn't appeared on the White House Web site. One thing that a few bloggers advocating better transparency and faster speed seemed to overlook was the fact that the legislation was still being written to reflect verbal agreements that had been made in conference committees the night before.
Once it was drafted, the text was available on other government Web sites, complete with paragraphs that were visibly crossed out, copyediting notes to add words like "the" and "a," and barely legible scribbled notes in the margins.
Friday afternoon, before the House of Representatives voted to approve the package, the White House posted a notice on its blog stating that the package was available for citizen review, comments, and feedback.
A link takes Web site visitors to a section where about 1,000 pages of provisions are presented via two links, along with two more links to about 500 pages of joint statements explaining the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It's all there, including the handwritten notes, via a link to the House Rules Committee.
Those who are willing to provide a name and e-mail address can send 500 characters worth of comment.
However, Congress fell short of requests from the Sunlight Foundation to post the bill 72 hours before approval. Heeding calls to move quickly, the House of Representatives passed the compromise version about 48 hours after the compromise was reached. The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation sometime Friday.