HON. RON PAUL
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2009
Madam Speaker, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." In order to shine sunlight on the practices of the House of Representatives, and thus restore public trust and integrity to this institution, I am introducing the sunlight rule, which amends House rules to ensure that members have adequate time to study a bill before being asked to vote on it. One of the chief causes of increasing public cynicism regarding Congress is the way major pieces of legislation are brought to the floor without members having an opportunity to read the bills. For example, the over-one-thousand page economic stimulus bill was first posted on the Internet at 12:30 a.m. the night before the vote. Obviously, this did not give individual members of Congress adequate time to review what is certainly one of, if not the, most significant pieces of legislation that Congress will consider this year.
My proposed rule requires that no piece of legislation, including conference reports, can be brought before the House of Representatives unless it has been available to members and staff in both print and electronic version for at least ten days. My bill also requires that a manager's amendment that makes substantive changes to a bill be available in both printed and electronic forms at least 72 hours before voted on. While manager's amendments are usually reserved for technical changes, oftentimes manager's amendments contain substantive additions to or subtractions from bills. Members should be made aware of such changes before being asked to vote on a bill.
The sunlight rule provides the people the opportunity to be involved in enforcing the rule by allowing a citizen to petition for an Office of Congressional Ethics investigation into any House Member who votes for a bill brought to the floor in violation of this act. The sunlight rule can never be waived by the Committee on Rules or House leadership. If an attempt is made to bring a bill to the floor in violation of this rule, any member could raise a point of order requiring the bill to be immediately pulled from the House calendar until it can be brought to the floor in a manner consistent with this rule.
Madam Speaker, the practice of rushing bills to the floor before individual members have had a chance to study the bills is one of the major factors contributing to public distrust of Congress. Voting on bills before members have had time to study them makes a mockery of representative government and cheats the voters who sent us here to make informed decisions on public policy. Adopting the sunlight rule is one of, if not the, most important changes to the House rules this Congress could make to restore public trust in, and help preserve the integrity of, this institution. I hope my colleagues will support this change to the House rules.