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Imperfectly Kept Promise from President Obama

Update: February 18, 2009: There was a White House blog post on 2/6/2009 that addressed this issue. The post can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog_post/update_on_sunlight_before_signing/. It addresses my concerns for the time being and I regret having missed it until now. I really appreciate a White House that actually seems to react positively to feedback.

Update: February 2, 2009: I have changed the title of this blog post because President Obama has posted the text of the SChip children’s health care bill at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/SCHIP_Public_Review/. This appears to signal an intention to follow through on his original campaign promise.

I’m using the phrase “imperfectly kept” because:

1) There’s no explanation for why the Ledbetter bill wasn’t posted prior to signing.

2) There is currently no way to list all bills being posted in this way.

3) The original promise was to post bills awaiting signature for five days. The SChip bill hasn’t passed Congress yet and some people might have a hard time navigating the THOMAS link for full text.

4) Comments are limited to 500 characters.  Given the complexity of most legislation, I think 300-500 WORDS would be more appropriate. Along with radio buttons allowing you to indicate whether you want him to sign or veto the proposed legislation.

But at this point I’m inclined to give the White House staff the benefit of the doubt for a few more bills. I reserve the right to change my mind. Again.


Original Title: A Broken Promise from President Obama

The day after the election I said that if President Obama did things that I thought were blameworthy, especially with regard to Iraq, Torture or Transparency, I would not hesitate to criticize him.

According to the non-profit/non-partisan Sunlight Foundation, President Obama has ignored a campaign promise to allow post non-emergency bills to his website for five days for public comment.

While the utility of a five day waiting period before signing bills can be debated, it was a commitment that President Obama made and I’m disappointed to see him apparently revoke it without comment. The action that I’d like to see in this instance would be either:

1) An acknowledgement that the bill was signed in violation of his stated policy and a commitment to follow the policy in the future.


2) A public, explicit recision of the policy that explains why the Administration found it impractical or not worthwhile. This should be combine with some kind of statement on any other parts of Obama’s transparency campaign statements the Administration has decided is not compatible with governing.

As broken promises go, this is a minor one. I would be much more angry if President Obama had instead decided that Gitmo was vital to our security or announced this week that Iraq needed more troops not less. But transparency problems can quickly lead to policy problems and so should be taken care of as early as possible.

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