GOP Leaders Break 72-Hr Pledge: Rush 269-Page $982B CR to Vote 48 Hrs After Posting

Terence P. Jeffrey | March 6, 2013 | 10:12am EST
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House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (AP Photo)

[This story was updated at 2:36 p.m. Wednesday to reflect that the vote on the CR had been completed.]

( - The House Republican leaders today rushed through a vote on a 269-page $982-billion continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government for the remainder of fiscal 2013 in direct violation of a pledge they made to the American people to post bills online for at least 72 hours before voting on them.

The text of the new CR was first posted online on the House website at 2:21 p.m. on Monday. The House leadership held the vote on the bill at 2:03 p.m. Wednesday.

That is a little less than 48 hours after they posted it online for review by members and the public.

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There was some snow in Washington, D.C. today, but the CR the federal government is currently operating under does not expire until March 27—a full three weeks from now. So there was no imminent need to enact a new CR today.

Back in September 2010, when House Republicans were reaching out to the grass roots Tea Party movement and seeking its help in re-gaining control of the House, the Republican leaders published and promoted what they called “A Pledge to America.” They presented this pledge, in part, as a response to the manner in which then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was running the House.

In the Democrat-controlled House that sat in 2009 and 2010, Speaker Pelosi pushed through a 1,071-page stimulus bill that the CBO later estimated cost more than $830 billion. As reported at the time, that bill was posted online at 8:20 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 12, and voted on the next day.

When asked by on the day before that stimulus bill was posted whether he would actually read it in its entirety before he voted on it, Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg told “No, I don’t think anybody will have a chance to.”

When Pelosi did bring the stimulus up for a vote on the House floor on Feb. 13, 2012, only a day after it was posted, then-Minority Leader John Boehner went down to the well, dropped the massive piece of legislation on the podium, and complained that no one had read it. He also criticized the Democrats for violating what he said was their "promise" to let people see it for at least 48 hours.

"Here we are with 1,100 pages--1,100 pages--not one member of this body has read,” said Boehner in that 2009 floor speech. “Not one.

“What happened to the promise that we're going to let the American people see what's in this bill for 48 hours?” said Boehner. “But no, we don't have time to do that.”

“I don't believe this is the way to do it,” said Boehner back then.

In their pledge to America, released Sept. 23, 2010, the Republican leaders said: “We will govern differently than past Congresses of both parties. We will require that every bill contain a citation of Constitutional authority. We will give all Representatives and citizens at least three days to read the bill before a vote.”

Speaking at the event at which Boehner, then-Minority Whip Eric Cantor and then-Minority Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy unveiled the Pledge to America, Rep. Jason Chaffetz explained that “at least three days” meant “at least 72 hours.”

“We are taking a pledge today to do a number of things,” said Chaffetz. “It starts with all pieces of legislation be available online for 72 hours--at least 72 hours--so that the public has a chance to review the legislation and so that members of Congress can actually read the bill.”

McCarthy and Boehner later repeated that in fact the Republicans were pledging to put legislation online for at least 72 hours before bringing it up for a vote.

On Fox News on Sept. 23, 2010, McCarthy said he would love to debate Democrats about the provisions of the pledge. “Do they disagree that a bill should be put online for 72 hours and actually read before it’s voted on?” he said.

On CNN on Oct. 10, 2010, McCarthy said: “When you look at the Pledge to America that the Republicans have laid out, there is a cultural change in there. There is something that opens up the floor that hasn't been done for quite some time, where bills won't be written in the back of the room, where the bills have to be laid out for 72 hours, where bills actually have an open rule, where people can bring amendments up on the floor, which any freshman congressman that's sitting there today has never even seen that happen under the rule of Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats.”

After the 2010 election, in an op-ed released on Nov. 12, 2010, Boehner wrote: “We will make it easier to cut spending, require bills to be published publicly for 72 hours before Congress votes, and end the practice of using 'comprehensive' bills to lump together issues that have nothing to do with each other.”

Among the controversial aspects of the CR that Boehner will bring for a vote on the House floor today—less than 47 hours after it was posted—is that it does not include language to prevent President Barack Obama from implementing a regulation that will force Roman Catholics and other Christians to act against their faiths in providing or buying health-care plans that cover sterilizations, contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs.

Last week, 14 House Republicans, led by Rep. Diane Black (R.-Tenn.) and Rep. John Fleming (R.-La.), sent Boehner a letter asking him to include language in the CR to this effect. Boehner did not do so, and the rule approved by the leadership-controlled House Rules Committee that governed consideration of the CR did not allow members to offer an amendment to that effect when the bill was brought up for a vote on the floor today.

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