Notes From Babel

The 2400-page HCR Amendment Bill Now Complies with the “Eight Principles of Open Government” Huzzah!!

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Here’s something amusing.  When I checked the OpenCongress.com site yesterday to view the text of the “Reconciliation Act of 2010”—the so-called “amendment” that the House previously had planned to use to “deem and pass” the Senate health care bill—I got this interesting message:

Apologies that the formatting of the bill text on this page is a bit messy — because Congress does not publish official info in ways that are compliant with the Eight Principles of Open Government Data, the OpenCongress team was obligated to manually assemble the HTML web code from the original .pdf document. We’re working now to make this bill text work like other bills on the site, so you’ll be able to permalink and comment on individual sections of bill text. For a summary of the Reconciliation Bill and ongoing news and blog coverage, see our Blog, follow us on Twitter, and let us know what you think by writing us with your questions and comments :: writeus@opencongress.org.

The “Eight Principles of Open Government Data” referenced by OpenCongress states that the objectives are

to develop a more robust understanding of why open government data is essential to democracy. [¶]  The Internet is the public space of the modern world, and through it governments now have the opportunity to better understand the needs of their citizens and citizens may participate more fully in their government. Information becomes more valuable as it is shared, less valuable as it is hoarded. Open data promotes increased civil discourse, improved public welfare, and a more efficient use of public resources.

Obama promised that “the public will have five days to look online and find out what’s in it before I sign it so that you know what your government’s doing.” (As the Cato Institute pointed out previously, this “was [Obama’s] first broken promise, and it’s the promise that keeps on breaking.”)  If anyone can read and decipher this 2400 page monster in five days—or, better yet, the four days that the House has between its submission on Wednesday and the vote on Sunday—I’ll buy them a Coke.  I feel comfortable this is a safe bet, given the chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services hasn’t been able to do it yet.  From the Corner:

In your letter, you requested that we provide the updated actuarial estimates in time for your review prior to the expected House debate and vote on this legislation on March 21,2010. I regret that my staff and I will not be able to prepare our analysis within this very tight time frame, due to the complexity of the legislation. We will, however, continue working to estimate the financial, coverage, and other impacts of the health reform package and will provide these results to you as quickly as possible.

As of today, at least, the Reconciliation Act of 2010 is finally formatted in HTML on the OpenCongress site.  Nice to see our “essential democracy” has resumed.

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Written by Tim Kowal

March 20, 2010 at 10:19 pm

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