About a year ago following a few scandals, the House and Senate saw a flurry of Congressional reform legislation get introduced… and then promptly ignored. Finally, however, we may see meaningful reform. Senate majority leader Harry Reid has introduced S. 1: Commission to Strengthen Confidence in Congress Act of 2007. The bill would make two incredibly important advances:
(Sec 103) It shall not be in order to consider any Senate bill or Senate amendment or conference [without] a list of– (1) all earmarks in such measure; (2) an identification of the Member or Members who proposed the earmark; and (3) an explanation of the essential governmental purpose for the earmark is available … to all Members and made available on the Internet to the general public for at least 48 hours before its consideration.’.
(Sec 104) It shall not be in order to consider a conference report unless such report is available to all Members and made available to the general public by means of the Internet for at least 48 hours before its consideration.
Strangely, the bill does not require that bills (!) be available on the Internet for 48 hours before being voted on. Just conference reports. After a bill has been passed by both the House and the Senate, it’s often the case that the second chamber to get the bill has made amendments to the bill that the first chamber hasn’t yet gotten a chance to see. In that case, a conference committee is made to get the two chambers back in sync, and the final version of a bill comes out in a conference report.
Since it’s been introduced by Reid, I think it’s almost certainly going to get through the Senate. The House seems to be off in its own world, so I’m not sure whether we’ll see this bill ever become law, but it’s got a good shot.