A group of eight Democrats today asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for the health care reform bill to be posted online for 72 hours before a vote on the measure and once again before a vote on the conference report that will meld the House and Senate versions.
The senators told Reid that health care reform should be more transparent and easier for their constituents to understand. A CBS poll released last month showed that two-thirds of Americans say the issue is confusing and just 31 percent say they have a clear understanding of what reform will mean for their own care.
The senators wrote, “At a time when trust in Congress and the U.S. government is unprecedentedly low, we can begin to rebuild the American people’s faith in their federal government through transparency and by actively inviting Americans to participate in the legislative process.”
The senators are borrowing the idea from Kentucky Republican Sen. Jim Bunning, who offered an amendment during the Finance Committee debate that would have put the health care reform bill into legislative language, scored it by the Congressional Budget Office, and put it online for the public to read for three full days before the committee voted on it.
When he introduced his idea, Bunning said, “Quite frankly, I think Americans are tired us us taking the easy way out, tired of us not reading or having the time to read the bills. They expect more from us and we should deliver it.” The Democrats are asking Reid to deliver on all three of Bunning’s suggestions.
When Bunning introduced his amendment last month, Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) accused him of trying to stall progress on health care reform and the committee rejected the amendment.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) crossed party lines to vote for it and took the lead on circulating the letter among her colleagues this week. Seven other moderate Democrats signed on: Evan Bayh of Indiana, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Lieberman (independent Democrat) of Connecticut, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Jim Webb of Virginia.
“We believe the American public’s participation in this process is critical to our overall success of creating a bill that lowers health care costs and offers access to quality and affordable health care for all Americans,” the letter concluded. The Finance Committee has posted the final version of its bill online prior to the committee vote, but the bill has not yet been scored by the CBO and remains in conceptual, rather than legislative, language.