Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ah, the good ol' Senate Ethics Reform bill!

Last month, a day before the Senate voted and ultimately passed the health care reform bill, I noted that, by law, the vote could have been postponed and possibly blocked.

On what did I base this assumption? Well, here's the nuts and bolts of the argument:

On January 18, 2007, the Senate Ethics Reform bill was brought to a vote by the notorious "earmarker", Sen. Harry Reid. The bill passed 96 to 2 and was signed into law by President George W. Bush in September of 2007. The aforementioned legislation requires, among other things, that Senators who submit earmark requests on a bill be identified as the sponsor of their requests on a publicly accessible congressional website at least 48 hours before the item comes to a vote [Tile V (Sec. 521)].

Here's what the Ethics reform bill states [PDF file page 26]:

1. (a) It shall not be in order to vote on a motion to proceed to consider a bill... unless the chairman of the committee of jurisdiction or the Majority Leader or his or her designee certifies - (1) that each congressionally directed spending item, limited tax benefit, and limited tariff benefit, if any, in the bill... has been identified through lists, charts, or other similar means including the name of each Senator who submitted a request to the committee for each item so identified; and (2) that the information in clause (1) has been available on a publicly accessible congressional website in a searchable format at least 48 hours before such vote.

From my Dec. 23 post [with a few minor alterations]:
Question: [Were] all the requested earmarks - tied to the health care bill - and the names of the senators who requested these earmarks, identified through lists, charts etc.? [Was] all this information available on a publicly accessible congressional website in a searchable format at least 48 hours before the senate [voted] on the bill...?

Case in point: The senate bill contains a $100 million earmark for an
unnamed health care facility. No one could ascertain who the intended recipient of the earmark was until Sen. Christopher Dodd - who was facing a difficult re-election campaign [before he decided to back out of the race on Jan. 6] - told the AP that he had requested the earmark for construction of a hospital tied to the University of Connecticut.

Who knows what other hidden earmarks are lurking within this 2000 page health care monstrosity!

Nevertheless, it would stand to reason that if any additional earmarks - and names of the senators who sought out these earmarks - [were not] identified both on lists, charts etc. and on a publicly accessible congressional website [in a searchable format] as of Tuesday, Dec. 22, a senate vote on the health care bill, by law, [should not have] proceeded [on Dec. 24].
Read the rest.

So, why am I regurgitating all of this now?

Well, The Hill is now reporting that 23 Republican senators sent a letter to Sen. Reid today essentially raising the aforementioned argument, saying Reid "may have violated the law by failing to disclose earmarks that various lawmakers received through the healthcare measure."
The 2007 ethics law requires bill sponsors to disclose directed spending items and limited tax benefits.

“We are concerned that the inclusion of these items without appropriate disclosure may violate the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 [the Senate Ethics Reform bill],” the lawmakers wrote.

Republican lawmakers asked Reid to share the information with them and post it on his website within 24 hours. They also asked that Reid disclose earmarks and carve-outs in the final healthcare bill produced from Senate and House negotiations.
However, I am still a bit concerned that the Republicans will not use the full force of the law to ultimately repeal this health care bill. Bear in mind, that Sen. Reid was required by law to make all of this information [including the names of each and every senator who requested these earmarks. (In the aforementioned letter, I did not notice any mention of the need to list the names of the senators who requested these earmarks. This is of particular concern to me; it should have been mentioned in the letter!)] readily available on a publicly accessible congressional website in a searchable format at least 48 hours before the Senate voted on the health care bill. If indeed, Sen. Reid did not abide by the law, this health care bill passed the senate illegally, and is thus, totally null and void.

Reid and his minions can fret all they want, but last time I checked, the Constitution was still intact, and still in effect. If indeed, Harry, "the notorious earmarker", did not fully disclose each and every handout [and the names of the senators who requested these handouts/earmarks] on a congressional website 48 hours prior to the vote, then I think this entire matter needs to be taken up by the US Supreme Court.

Demanding full accountability from Sen. Reid will not suffice, and neither will half-baked, symbolic gestures from the GOP; not when they have the constitution and the law on their side. Republican lawmakers must see to it that the rule of law is upheld and they must fight this thing till the end. And, if indeed the health care bill was passed illegally, it must be repealed forthwith.

GOP Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.), John McCain (Ariz.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), John Cornyn (Texas), John Thune (S.D.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) were among those who signed the letter.

Contact these Senators, by clicking the highlighted links above. Thank them for their efforts, but demand that they see this thing through till the end, and I mean, the VERY end.

P.S. The Supreme Court Justices do not have email addresses. However, if you'd like to raise the matter with them, you can still contact them the ol' fashioned way: Just send them a letter. Contact information here. John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, are probably the best ones to contact.

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