SUBMITTED RESOLUTIONS; Congressional Record Vol. 156, No. 95
(Senate - June 23, 2010)

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[Pages S5322-S5323]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                         SUBMITTED RESOLUTIONS

                                 ______
                                 

  SENATE RESOLUTION 562--TO INCREASE TRANSPARENCY BY REQUIRING SENATE 
    AMENDMENTS TO BE MADE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC IN A TIMELY MANNER

  Mr. GRASSLEY submitted the following resolution; which was referred 
to the Committee on Rules and Administration:

                              S. Res. 562

       Resolved,

     SECTION 1. AVAILABILITY TO THE PUBLIC.

       Not later than 6 months after the date of adoption of this 
     resolution, the Secretary of the Senate shall make the Senate 
     amendment database (ats.senate.gov or a similar amendment 
     database) available to the public on a public website in a 
     manner that will allow the public to view amendments as soon 
     as they are made widely available to Members of Congress and 
     staff.

     SEC. 2. UPGRADES TO THE WEBSITE.

       Not later than 6 months after the date of adoption of this 
     resolution, the Secretary of the Senate shall improve the 
     Senate amendment website and any other amendment website made 
     available to the public by ensuring that--
       (1) all amendments are scanned and posted on the website in 
     their entirety;
       (2) all submitted amendments have their purpose inputted 
     when they are entered into the website;
       (3) all amendments are identified on the website as first 
     degree or second degree and by what bill or amendment they 
     are offered, if available;
       (4) all amendments on the website have the dates they were 
     submitted, proposed, and disposed of; and
       (5) all amendments and any associated metadata are 
     permanently available on the website or the Legislative 
     Information System (LIS)/THOMAS sites.

     SEC. 3. FUNDING.

       It is the sense of the Senate that appropriations should be 
     made available through the appropriations process to carry 
     out this resolution.

  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I address my colleagues for the purpose 
of submitting a resolution that will bring about greater transparency 
in government. I think my colleagues know I have a long history in 
promoting this sort of transparency. I believe the more people are 
aware of what we are doing in the Senate and the Congress, or in 
Washington generally, the more accountable we are. The more accountable 
we are, the better job we will do. I hope everybody agrees that is a 
pretty simple concept.
  Today, the purpose I come to the Senate floor is to submit a 
resolution that will improve transparency in this body and hold us all 
more accountable to the people we serve; in other words, reminding the 
people that we work for them; they do not work for us.
  This resolution requires the Secretary of the Senate to make filed 
amendments publicly available as soon as they are made available to 
Members and staff. I will show, in just a minute, that they are almost 
immediately made available to Members and staff. So why not the public?
  In this day and age you would think this was already happening. We 
live in a world of 24-hour news. We live in a world of instant coverage 
over the Internet of just about everything. Yet we have not been 
allowing the general public to get this information real time. My 
proposal would add more transparency to how the Senate works and what 
we are debating on the Senate floor.
  Some might question whether this is necessary. Under the current 
system, the public is usually able to see an amendment the next day in 
the Congressional Record. So I want to say why that is not good enough. 
In many cases, that may simply be too late.
  Under the current system, the public may not be able to see the 
amendment until after debate has begun or even

[[Page S5323]]

after the Senate has already voted. This would be even more common 
during some of the controversial debates that stretch late into the 
evening. You might remember the late evening votes we had on health 
care reform last December and again in March where hundreds of 
amendments were filed and votes were cast well past midnight.
  In fact, today we make the vote count public on the Internet within 
an hour of when a vote takes place. But we might not be able to make 
the substance of what we voted on available until the next day. So we 
let the public see how we voted, but we do not always let them see what 
we voted on. Of course, that does not make sense.
  Just last night, Members tried to call up and pass various 
amendments. But only the most experienced Washington insider would have 
been able to actually find copies of those amendments. Shouldn't we 
have some kind of searchable system for amendments to allow our 
constituents the same access to information that some seasoned lobbyist 
or some seasoned congressional staffer has?
  Don't we want to give our constituents a chance to see the amendments 
before we vote on them, if they are interested in reading them? Don't 
we want to know what our constituents think about amendments before we 
vote on them?
  In order for that to happen, they have to know what those amendments 
are that have been filed. Of course, I am not talking about an 
amendment that might change a word here or a word there--although those 
should be publicly available as well. Some amendments I am talking 
about are hundreds of pages long and even constitute a complete rewrite 
of an underlying bill.
  Today, we will likely see our fifth version of the extenders bill 
that is now the pending business on the floor of the Senate, and that 
fifth version would be in the form of an amendment. But our 
constituents may not be able to see that until tomorrow.
  Shouldn't the public be able to see that amendment as soon as we 
Members or our staffs can read that amendment? This is a representative 
system of government, and it is impossible to represent the American 
people if they do not have access to the same information we have.
  In addition to those who will question whether this is necessary, 
others might wonder whether it is even possible, like technically 
possible.
  In fact, we are already doing it. That is right. The amendments are 
already available electronically to Senate offices almost immediately 
after they are filed, but they are not available to the public--not 
necessarily intentionally hidden from the public, but the public cannot 
get them like everybody in the Senate and in our offices can get them.
  I have a chart in the Chamber that shows there is already an 
Amendment Tracking System Web site that is only available to Members of 
Congress and staff. It provides a copy of the amendment, the purpose of 
the amendment, the sponsor of the amendment, and the status of that 
amendment.
  My resolution is this simple: It would simply make this or a similar 
Web site available to the public, much like already is done with the 
Legislative Information System site or the Thomas site at the Library 
of Congress.
  That way, the public gets to see exactly what we Members and our 
staffs are seeing almost immediately after filing. They get the same 
information and can provide their input prior to a vote.
  There is a lot of distrust of government these days. People believe 
Congress is ignoring what the public thinks and what the public wants. 
Some of this is the result of the policies that are being considered 
around here. But it also has to do with the lack of transparency and 
accountability in government.
  I am not saying this resolution is going to fix all that is wrong 
with that distrust that is expressed--because it will not--but this 
resolution is one more step toward letting a little more sunshine into 
this Chamber. This straightforward resolution will increase 
transparency, it will promote accountability, and it will make us all 
better representatives of the people we serve.
  I hope the Senate will consider this resolution at some point in the 
near future, and I also urge my colleagues to support it. The public 
deserves access to this information on the same basis as those of us 
who are closely connected to this institution--meaning the Members and 
our staffs.

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