The House's Net Dilemma

When the House Republican Conference late last month approved a new House rule that requires committees to put their documents on the Internet, it created a quandary that only lawyers could love.

The proposed rule directs each House committee to "make its publications available in electronic form." But online activists are fretting over the definition of "publication." Several committees already put final verisons of their bills on the Net. Does that fulfill the rule's mandate, or does the rule extend to other documents, including the discussion drafts of bills and the chairman's mark, both of which are eagerly sought after by lobbyists and others because they often indicate which way the committee will vote?

The new rule "would be more clear" if it were amended to include all the documents a committee produces, including rough drafts and corrected versions of hearing and markup transcripts, the Congressional Accountability Project, a Washington-based online advocacy group, wrote in a letter to House Rules Committee Chairman Gerald B.H. Solomon, R-N.Y., on Dec. 3.

Solomon's response: the subject is still under review.

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