Allow Five Days of Public Review and Comment Before Signing any Non-emergency Bills

Promise Broken President Obama continues breaking this important promise:

"Too often bills are rushed through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them. As president, Obama will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days." — Plan to Change Washington

White House Five Day Reviews - Check prior to all presidential signings


Other promises regarding ethics.


Updated: February 7, 2009

For a short while the White House website had a page for 5 day reviews and comments located at

That page now seems to have been removed and a thorough search doesn't show a replacement page. We then decided to contact the White House staff and suggest that they ADD A MENU ITEM for "Five Day Reviews" to their "Briefing Room" Menu. There is a perfect place to put it following the "Nominations & Appointments" link.

Putting a easy to find link to these Comments and Reviews in the websites's Briefing Room would show visitors that the President takes his promise seriously and will in future provide the five days for reviews and comments that he promised.

Updated: February 4, 2009

Obama's continues to break "Sunlight before Signing" promise

When President Obama signed his first bill without posting it to the Web for five days of public comment, we counted this as his second broken promise.

For his second bill, Obama signed an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which provides health coverage for low-income children. He signed it on Feb. 4, 2009, just hours after it was finalized in Congress.

This time, though, the White House had posted the text of the working bill to its Web site on Feb. 1, 2009, with the following note : "Since this version of the bill is expected to pass the House of Representatives in the coming week, we are making the legislation available for public comment now."

That doesn't quite cut it for his promise, though. The legislation was still in process in Congress, and even if no substantial changes were made, the possibility was still there. It's not the five-day waiting period he had promised.

It's also not emergency legislation. The bill's provisions don't kick in until April 1, 2009, almost three months from signing.

The White House was asked about this matter on Jan. 29, when Obama signed his first bill. Five days later, on the day of the SCHIP signing, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor made the following comment:

"During the campaign, the president committed to introducing more sunlight into the lawmaking process by posting nonemergency legislation online for five days before signing it. The president remains committed to bringing more transparency to government, and in this spirit the White House has posted legislation expected to come to the president's desk online for comment. We will be implementing this policy in full soon; currently we are working through implementation procedures and some initial issues with the congressional calendar. In the meantime, we will continue to post legislation on our Web site for comment as it moves through congress over the next few weeks."

In deciding on our ratings, we like to be reasonable about promises that take time to implement. But the White House has demonstrated it has the technical ability to post information to their site and allow comments. They're just not waiting the promised interval. So we are still counting this as a broken promise.


White House Web site, CHIP , accessed Feb. 4, 2009

Thomas, SCHIP legislation , accessed Feb. 4, 2009

White House Web site, "Latest version of SCHIP posted for comment ," Feb. 1, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2009

Obama signs first law without five days of Web comment

One of President Obama's major campaign planks was making government more open and accountable. It's a reaction to a habit in Congress of rushing bills through the House and Senate without giving people much opportunity to know what the bills would do. Indeed, sometimes members of Congress don't even know what's in the bills.

So Obama pledged during the campaign to institute "sunlight before signing" to reduce bills rushed through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review and comment of them. Unbelievably, Obama broke this promise on the very first bill he signed into law as president — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — which received no such vetting.

The legislation was not posted to the White House Web site for comment in any way that we could find. In fact, the Congressional Record shows that the law was passed in the Senate on Jan. 22, 2009, passed in the House on Jan. 27, and signed by the president on Jan. 29. So only two days passed between the bill's final passage and the signing.

We see no way the bill could be deemed emergency legislation, even taking the broadest view. The bill overturns the effects of a Supreme Court decision that limited when workers could sue for pay discrimination. Most pertinently, the bill is retroactive to the time of the court decision — May 28, 2007. Obama earned a Promise Kept from us for signing the law. But it would have the same effect if had been signed a few days later, so it's clearly not an emergency.

Obama signed the measure at 10:20 a.m. About two hours later, the White House posted the bill on its Web site with a link that asks people to submit comments. But the bill was already signed at that point.

We recognize that Obama has been in office just a week, but he was very clear about his plan for a five-day comment period, and we can't see why this one needed to be rushed. It's rather ironic that Obama both keeps and breaks a campaign promise at the same time.

See also: Work to Overturn Supreme Court's Ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear


White House Web site, post on the Lilly Ledbetter Act, accessed Jan. 30, 2009

Library of Congress THOMAS, Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, accessed Jan. 29, 2009

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