Congressmen seeking 72-hour delay to read legislation

WASHINGTON — Saying they want to be able to fully read and understand the legislation they're considering, both of Idaho's congressmen are backing a 72-hour waiting period on votes in the House of Representatives.

Democrat Walt Minnick and Republican Mike Simpson joined a group of several Democrats and many Republicans who are circulating what's known as a "discharge petition."

The group is led by Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who are asking that House leaders take up a bill requiring that all legislation have a 72-hour review period before it's brought to the House floor for a vote. Baird, the bill's sponsor, has attracted 173 of the 218 votes needed for a successful discharge petition.

Normally, measures introduced in the House can't be considered for a full vote until the leadership places it on the floor schedule. But if enough members sign a discharge petition, it allows the proposed law to be heard on the floor over the objections of House leadership. It's typically a ploy used by the minority party, so it's unusual for Democrats like Minnick and Baird to back it.

But Baird said in a statement outlining his proposal that he doesn't think his proposal is about politics, adding that “both parties are guilty” of rushing legislation through Congress.

Minnick told the Statesman that he sees Baird’s proposal purely as good government.

“I try hard to know what I’m voting on,” he said. “It’s just good legislative process. It’s not a partisan thing.”

And Simpson said that rushing votes results in mistakes that cost American taxpayers time and money.

“We must put an end to the practice of posting a bill in the dead of night and then bringing it to the floor only hours later,” he said in a statement.

The idea for a 72-hour waiting period developed in part after the House voted on stimulus legislation earlier this year, said Simpson spokeswoman Nikki Watts. House Republicans were upset that the final legislation surfaced at midnight, giving them just 12 hours to review it before voting on it. But the fear that health care legislation would be rushed also has driven Simpson’s support, Watts said. Simpson also has co-sponsored a GOP resolution that would require a one-month waiting period before voting on any completed health care legislation, to allow time for public review.

Senate Republicans on the Finance Committee, including Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, have been calling for a similar waiting period this week as they work out the fine points of health care legislation. That call, however, has been seen as a stalling tactic on legislation that’s been under discussion for several months.