By: Susan Ferrechio
Chief Congressional Correspondent
October 6, 2009
As Congress lurches closer to a decision on an enormous overhaul of the American health care system, pressure is mounting on legislative leaders to make the final bill available online for citizens to read before a vote.
Lawmakers were given just hours to examine the $789 billion stimulus plan, sweeping climate-change legislation and a $700 billion bailout package before final votes.
While most Americans normally ignore parliamentary detail, with health care looming, voters are suddenly paying attention. The Senate is expected to vote on a health bill in the weeks to come, representing months of work and stretching to hundreds of pages. And as of now, there is no assurance that members of the public, or even the senators themselves, will be given the chance to read the legislation before a vote.
"The American people are now suspicious of not only the lawmakers, but the process they hide behind to do their work," said Michael Franc, president of government relations for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
At town hall meetings across the country this past summer, the main topic was health care, but there was a strong undercurrent of anger over the way Congress rushed through passage of the stimulus, global warming and bank bailout bills without seeming to understand the consequences. The stimulus bill, for example, was 1,100 pages long and made available to Congress and the public just 13 hours before lawmakers voted on it. The bill has failed to provide the promised help to the job market, and there was outrage when it was discovered that the legislation included an amendment allowing American International Group, a bailout recipient, to give out millions in employee bonuses.