Obama’s Five Day Rule

During the campaign, Obama promised that he would wait to sign legislation until the text of the bills had been placed online for at least five days time.  Since taking office, he has been 1 for 11 on the promise.  It’s easy to think that the promise was mere window dressing, so that the real fault was that Obama had made such a frivolous promise (bullshitting the electorate being a venial sin).  But Cato’s Jim Harper makes a compelling case to the contrary (h/t Radley Balko):

It is easy to dismiss the five-day promise as an idea that would not have changed much anyway. Bills coming out of Congress are faits accomplis, aren’t they? They are not.

Members of Congress are highly skilled political risk balancers, and the president’s firm insistence on leaving bills sitting out there, unsigned, after they pass Congress would have a significant effect on congressional behavior. It would threaten to reveal excesses in parochial amendments and earmarks, which could bring down otherwise good bills. Recognizing the negative attention they could draw to themselves, representatives and senators would act with more circumspection, and last-minute add-ons to big bills would recede. A firm five-day rule at the White House would also inspire the House and Senate to implement more transparent and careful processes themselves.


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