Earlier this year Congress faced some tough choices. It was clear the economy was headed in a dangerous direction, and the country faced financial challenges not seen in generations. Action was required to prevent another Great Depression.
There was a lot of debate about the right course to take. Some wanted aggressive action by the federal government; others felt that limited and strategic government action was warranted. Still, others supported a combination of tax relief and incentives to motivate the private sector to act on its own.
The debate was critical because it helped the public learn about the slipping economy; the public, in turn, helped inform the debate by providing feedback to Senators and Representatives. That process should have continued after bills were introduced, so the people most affected by the slipping economy and by proposed deficit spending – the public – would have say in the final proposal.
Unfortunately, the public did not get as much opportunity to weigh in on the final bill. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act – the stimulus bill – was formally introduced just hours before the first vote in Congress.
Regardless of your position on that bill or any others over the last ten years, it simply isn’t right to write legislation without giving the public – let alone members of Congress – the ability to read it first. It’s not good government, and it’s not the way this country should make public policy. Most importantly, it’s not the way Idahoans want government to work.
As your elected Senators and Representatives, we have a responsibility to represent Idaho values in Washington, D.C. At our regular delegation meetings, we always search for the right approach for our state, without worrying about what’s best for ourselves or our political parties.
That’s what Idahoans have come to expect from their elected officials: to seek consensus, to reach out to the people who put us into office and solicit their input. When we take the time to listen to the people we represent, our work is better. In fact, the work of both Houses of Congress would better reflect the wishes of the country if the public was able to better track the legislative process.
This is critically important for the upcoming votes on health care. Throughout Idaho over the summer, it was clear that you were informed about the various proposals before Congress. The efforts at town meetings demonstrated that Americans want to read and understand the bills. It’s imperative to know how the proposals will affect our families, but time is needed to delve more deeply into the actual legislation without relying on broad talking points and media soundbites. You need sufficient time to review the language and the financial analysis.
With technology now available, it’s easy for such information to be made available. That is why we strongly support efforts to require Congress to post bills online no less than 72 hours before a vote so the public can have an opportunity to read, review and provide feedback. We have all supported various efforts to move efforts along to provide bill language on the Internet, as well as efforts to force a vote by Congress on those measures.
We will continue advocating for these policies and will continue to seek more ways for you to be better engaged and informed on the issues before the U.S. Congress. That’s part of the job you hired each of us to do.