Keeping Tabs on Our Adhocracy
When you withdraw funds from your bank, you can check online moments later and confirm the transaction. When Congress spends $400 of your money, good luck finding out about it.
Last week, Congress agreed on a short-term plan to fund the government through November 18th. Except … they didn’t hash out all the details quite quickly enough. So they had to pass an even shorter short-term plan, this one to fund the government through Tuesday, October 4th.
We cataloged the mess in a post called “Follow the Bouncing Bill.” Think of this as an update to that one.
The plan was to pass H.R. 2608. But because they didn’t get that done timely, they passed H.R. 2017, now known as “The Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012.” (It started life as a full-year homeland security spending bill, but they switched and made it a full-government short-term spending bill. Y’know, to keep it hard to follow along.)
Cutting to the chase on what matters—the money—H.R. 2017 spends about $400 per U.S. family on running the government for the first four days of October. H.R. 2608, which now keeps the government going for the next 45 days, until November 18th, comes in at about $4,500 per family.
Barring some political upheaval, H.R. 2608 will get approved in the House on Tuesday. It already passed the Senate, so it’ll get the president’s signature before the lights go out at midnight that night.
H.R. 2017 got signed last week, so it has become Public Law number … well, we don’t actually know what public law number it is. There’s almost no documentation on any official web site of what happened last week.
And we think that’s pretty amazing.
The law that has the government open for business this week isn’t documented online.
The Library of Congress’ web site was down for maintenance much of the weekend, and it’s still acting a little funky. (Can’t pull up bill text.) And it hasn’t been updated to reflect the passage of this new law. The Government Printing Office also isn’t updated to reflect that this new law has passed. The White House’s website says President Obama passed the bill, and that’s undoubtedly true.
Don’t take this wrong. It’s a real law. Things are going “normally”—other than Congress’ awful failure to get this done on time, of course. But Congress doesn’t have systems in place to tell us in real time what is in the bills they pass, and it doesn’t have systems to report in real time when a bill has become a law. Even though it spends billions of our dollars.
Something to think about. And maybe to act on. You can ask your representatives for transparency. You can sign our petition, “We Want a Transparent and Orderly Congress.” The thing you shouldn’t do is wonder why things run so badly. It’s because you and your neighbors let it happen.