Barack Obama Campaign Promise No. 234:
Allow five days of public comment before signing bills
To reduce bills rushed through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them, Obama "will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days."
Sources: Obama ethics plan
Subjects: Ethics, Transparency
Obama signs first law without Web comment
Updated: Thursday, January 29th, 2009 | By Angie Drobnic Holan
One of President Obama's major campaign planks was making government more open and accountable. It's a reaction to a habit in Congress of rushing bills through the House and Senate without giving people much opportunity to know what the bills would do. Indeed, sometimes members of Congress don't even know what's in the bills.
So Obama pledged during the campaign to institute "sunlight before signing."
"Too often bills are rushed through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them," Obama's campaign Web site states. "As president, Obama will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days."
But the first bill Obama signed into law as president -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- got no such vetting.
In fact, the Congressional Record shows that the law was passed in the Senate on Jan. 22, 2009, passed in the House on Jan. 27, and signed by the president on Jan. 29. So only two days passed between the bill's final passage and the signing.
The legislation was not posted to the White House Web site for comment in any way that we could find.
We see no way the bill could be deemed emergency legislation, even taking the broadest view. The bill overturns the effects of a Supreme Court decision that limited when workers could sue for pay discrimination. Most pertinently, the bill is retroactive to the time of the court decision -- May 28, 2007. Obama earned a Promise Kept from us for signing the law. But it would have the same effect if had been signed a few days later, so it's clearly not an emergency.
We asked the White House about this and if they planned to begin posting laws to the Web site for comment soon, but we got no response.
Obama signed the measure at 10:20 a.m. About two hours later, the White House posted the bill on its Web site with a link that asks people to submit comments. But the bill was already signed at that point.
We recognize that Obama has been in office just a week, but he was very clear about his plan for a five-day comment period, and we can't see why this one needed to be rushed. It is somewhat ironic that with the same action, Obama both keeps and breaks a campaign promise. But there it is -- his first one. Promise Broken.
White House Web site, post on the Lilly Ledbetter Act, accessed Jan. 29, 2009
Library of Congress THOMAS, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, accessed Jan. 29, 2009