Re: [govtrack] When bill status is uncertain
- Peggy Garvin wrote:
> This gets back to the legislative process/sausage-making comparison.Hi,
> It can be difficult, or deceptive, to try to "normalize" the dynamism of
> the President v. Congress, or congressional majority v. congressional
> minority. A database can only go so far, and then editorial commentary
> is needed - imho.
> That is where the THOMAS "note" field comes in handy. As you see in
> the note field re H.R. 1585: "On 12/28/2007, the President announced
> that he was withholding approval of this bill." Not terribly informative,
> but not blatantly misleading either. Providers of legislative information
> need to adopt their own policies on how to handle these challenges to
> the norm. There will always be an unexpected challenge, as with President
> Bill Clinton's test of the item veto after Congress, surprisingly, approved
> such a procedure.
Yeah, I agree that capturing these nuances is important.
I had never really looked closely at that Note field in THOMAS. Hmm.
- Josh Tauberer
"Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation! Yields
falsehood when preceded by its quotation!" Achilles to
Tortoise (in "Gödel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter)
> ----- Original Message ----
> From: Josh Tauberer <tauberer@...>
> To: GovTrack List <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Sent: Wednesday, January 9, 2008 9:42:56 PM
> Subject: [govtrack] When bill status is uncertain
> (Posted at:
> I always find it interesting how although our government is run by
> fairly strict procedural rules that have been written out in various
> places, starting with the constitution and ending somewhere past the
> horizon, sometimes it’s just impossible to locate exactly at what point
> in the procedural game “reality” is. For instance, the constitution
> outlines how a bill can become a law. But, at what point is a bill
> considered vetoed? If the president is signing the veto signature but
> misspells “veto” (or whatever he writes in this case, I have no idea),
> or is taken to the hospital before he writes the “o”, is the bill
> vetoed, or is it still awaiting a signature?
> The reason this is interesting to me is that we like to capture reality
> in data. The Library of Congress and GovTrack both systematize (or in
> computer jargon “normalize”) the bill-becomes-a-law process. At every
> point in the game, a bill, in our data formats, is either in-progress,
> enacted, dead, etc. It must be in one of these states. After all, the
> constitution outlines exactly what states a bill can be in, so any bill
> *must* be in one of these states.
> But if we’re not sure what state a bill is in, what state do we put it
> in in our data? There’s also the more important question- What do the
> lawmakers do if they disagree about what state a bill is in? (Actually,
> I would prefer to phrase it as “what state they are in”, but that’s
> another story.) Wikipedia describes (what the editors of the page claim
> is) a current debacle over H.R. 1585: National Defense Authorization Act
> FY 2008:
> In December of 2007, President George W. Bush pushed the pocket
> veto into murky waters by claiming that he had pocket vetoed H.R. 1585,
> the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008,” even
> though the House of Representatives had designated agents to receive
> presidential messages before adjourning. The bill had been previously
> passed by veto-proof majorities in both the House and the Senate [JT:
> and thus a traditional veto would have been futile].
> So was the bill (pocket) vetoed or not? Is the bill still in-progress?
> Assuming it was not pocket vetoed, after 10 legislative days without a
> traditional veto it becomes law, and us citizens would hate to be on
> that 11th day without either resolution on the pocket veto matter or a
> traditional veto, because then we as a country will not know whether
> this bill has become law. (Another question: How might the Supreme Court
> assert jurisdiction over this question.)
> But back to the data. At one point, some time after Dec. 28, someone in
> the House responsible for updating the bill status information shown on
> THOMAS entered a new status line:
> Dec 28, 2007: Pocket Vetoed by President.
> GovTrack picked up on the change and shows that status currently, much
> to the confusion of several people emailing me about it. Looking back at
> THOMAS, it seems like someone realized that that was apparently quite a
> constitutional (if not political) claim and retracted that update,
> because it not longer says that.
> In many cases citizens complain when the government takes things back,
> hiding information previously made public. That’s definitely not what I
> am getting at here. THOMAS is forced to show *something*, and when it
> doubt… well, what can you do but roll back history until we figure out
> what the next legislative step actually *was*.
> - Josh Tauberer
> - GovTrack.us <http://GovTrack.us>
> "Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation! Yields
> falsehood when preceded by its quotation!" Achilles to
> Tortoise (in "Gödel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter)
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