U.S. House Passes Three Important Bills, With Veto-Proof Majorities, That May Begin Unwinding Bush-Era Madness...
By Brad Friedman on 1/7/2009, 5:30pm PT  

[UPDATE 1/8/09: Oops! The article discussed below is indeed from Wednesday, but from a Wednesday in 2007! March 14th to be precise. I'll not out the colleague who sent it to me, who similarly thought it was published yesterday. But I'll thank the commenter who finally noticed the date on the Reuters article, re-remind myself of the the dangers of "road blogging" too quickly, and otherwise make myself feel better by noting that my originally expressed caution about getting too optimistic at this point was apparently well placed. As another commenter then noted, the original bill in question was later blocked in the Senate by an unknown, likely-Republican, Senator. Let's hope the Ds now have enough votes and control of the Senate to avoid the same fate for these bills that need to be passed now in the new Congress. And my apologies for the false-positive alarm. - BF]

We'll look forward to getting back to bashing Pelosi and Hoyer and Reid soon enough (Are they really still in charge of Congress? And is that really "change we can believe in"?) But for now, today's action in the House is certainly praiseworthy, and --- if we're lucky --- a sign of things to come? (There we go again, being all optimistic and stuff.)

Read on for some good news, for a change, via Reuters...

Brushing aside a veto threat, the House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to overturn a 2001 order by President George W. Bush that lets former presidents keep their papers secret indefinitely.

The measure, which drew bipartisan support and passed by a veto-busting 333-93 margin, was among White House-opposed bills the House passed that would widen access to government information and protect government whistleblowers.

"Today, Congress took an important step toward restoring openness and transparency in government," House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman said.

The presidential papers bill nullifies a November 2001 order, criticized by historians, in which Bush allowed the White House or a former president to block release of a former president's papers and put the onus on researchers to show a "specific need" for many types of records.

Among beneficiaries of the Bush order was Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, a former vice president and president.

The order gave former vice presidents the right to stop the release of their papers through an executive privilege that previously only presidents could use. And it extended to deceased presidents' designees rights to keep their papers secret indefinitely.

The House bill would give current and former presidents 40 business days to object to requests to view their papers, allow a sitting president to override a former president's claim of executive privilege and strip former vice presidents and the designees of deceased presidents of the power to use executive privilege to block access to their historical documents.

And, as if that's not encouraging enough to hear, the article adds that two other long overdue bills were passed as well:

Also passed by the House by a 331-94 margin, despite another veto threat, was a bill aimed at bolstering protections of government whistleblowers who report wrongdoing, especially those with private contractors and national security and scientific agencies.

A third bill, which passed 308-117, was aimed at speeding requests for government information made under the Freedom of Information Act. The White House stopped short of threatening to veto it but said it could not support the bill.

Are we seeing the beginning of a return to transparency and sanity? We'll not get too excited just yet, but today was very encouraging...