“We link to Thomas pages that list the latest version, so once they were amended people could still read that latest version once it got posted, as opposed to us posting text that became outdated,” the official said.
The link the White House posts goes to a list of bills in various stages of the process. In the case of the military procurement measure, the White House listed two bills winding their way through Congress, because it couldn’t know which version would actually be presented.
Mr. Obama has exempted emergency bills from his promise and used that to justify his signing some major measures such as the stimulus spending bill before a full five days had elapsed. But there was no stated emergency for last week’s bills.
“They’re certainly not making it a priority to live up to the pledge,” said John Wonderlich, policy director at the Sunlight Foundation.
Sunlight is pressing for a waiting period for Congress, to prevent instances like last week, when House and Senate negotiators filed their final version of the weapons acquisition bill and put it to a vote in the Senate the same day. The House voted on it the next day.
Mr. Wonderlich said Congress is where the actual changes to a bill can happen. By the time it gets to the president, he can only sign or veto it. In light of that, Mr. Wonderlich said, some transparency advocates have questioned the value of Mr. Obama’s five-day pledge.
Mr. Harper, though, said the value will come if and when Mr. Obama enforces the rule.
“Members of Congress are very skilled political risk analyzers. When the president is enforcing this rule and they know their work is going to sit for five days before signing, they’re going to know they can’t slip in that last earmark,” he said.
He pointed to the language that allowed American International Group executives to claim bonuses as an example. That language was added in the conference committee between House and Senate negotiators, at the very end of the legislative process.
Stephen Dinan can be reached at email@example.com.
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