A few short hours after the House GOP posted Speaker John Boehner’s 1,603-page $1.1 trillion omnibus bill text on its website, the website failed.
The bill text–both the PDF and the XML versions–went down around 11 p.m. on Wednesday night, for unspecified reasons. Speaker Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel hasn’t responded to inquiries as to why the bill is no longer available for the public to see.
Instead of the bill being available online, the website reads: “Server Error.”
“401 – Unauthorized: Access is denied due to invalid credentials,” the website now reads. “You do not have permission to view this directory or page using the credentials that you supplied.”
The Rules Committee website which serves as a gateway to get to the bill text is still up.
Interestingly, the process for the introduction of the omnibus spending bill has been largely nontransparent. Critics from both the left and the right have hit Congressional leaders like House Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), Boehner, and others for not releasing the bill text until very late Tuesday–it first posted online at about 8:20 p.m. on Tuesday–after originally promising to have the bill text available on Monday.
While reporting on a new campaign finance loophole inserted into page 1,599 of the 1,603 page bill, New York Times reporter Nick Confessore said via Twitter: “In a two year cycle, you and your spouse could give about $130,000 to a party committee. Now you can give $1.3 million.”
That’s a significant change to campaign finance law that has nothing to do with funding the government. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fought to include some campaign finance changes in the bill, but not these specific ones. McConnell aides did tell the Washington Post he didn’t push for these campaign finance restrictions to be loosened.
McConnell-connected operative Brian Walsh, who’s been on the payroll of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) for the last two years as a consultant after leaving post-2012 election, criticized the way Confessore framed his Tweet. “Or you can give millions in secret to outside groups. Raising contribution limits to the parties strengthens transparency,” Walsh tweeted back at the Times scribe.
In response Confessore tweeted: “Okay, so debate in in public instead of changing fundamental election rules in a secret deal.”
That’s exactly what this process has been: A “secret deal.” Nobody except for the top negotiators on either side of Capitol Hill knew what was in the bill before 8 p.m. tonight. And since the bill is so big, there’s no possible way any lawmaker could read it before the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill on Thursday.
That’s eerily similar to how Obamacare passed Congress, and Nancy Pelosi’s now-infamous slogan that was originally intended to quell criticism at the time but backfired: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
Now, just like how the Obamacare website crashed when that law was getting implemented, the House Republican website hosting the text of the bill has crashed. It’s only fitting that earlier on Tuesday, Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber testified before the House of Representatives–hours before Boehner attempted to get members to vote on this omnibus bill without reading it.
UPDATE 2:19 A.M. — The XML version of Boehner’s omnibus text has reappeared online, but still no explanation of why it disappeared has been given by anyone in House GOP leadership. It can be viewed at this link: https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20141208/CPRT-113-HPRT-RU00-HR83sa.xml
UPDATE 3:01 A.M. — The Rules Committee website, available at this link — https://rules.house.gov/bill/113/hr-83 — which serves as a gateway to the bill can’t fix the server error or website glitches behind Boehner’s omnibus, so staff have added a new link to what they’re terming “Alternate PDF” which takes those who click it to a new home for the PDF online. That link is, for now, working: https://docs.house.gov/meetings/RU/RU00/20141210/102799/BILLS-113rcp113-59pp.pdf