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Like many of our partners, we are concerned that the deliberations and decisions of the so-called "Super Congress" created by the recently-enacted debt ceiling bill will be made behind mostly closed doors. Minus a commitment from the Committee to adopt a strong public disclosure regime, the public will have no insight into the content, much less the development, of the plan for $1.5 trillion in debt reduction over the next ten years -- until the final deal is announced. And, under the terms of the debt ceiling bill, once the final deal is announced no changes can be made to it.
Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, calls the set-up of the Committe, "a recipe for unaccountability." Under the legislation, only the first meeting of the Committee, the final proposal, and the vote are open to the public, meaning the only people privileged enough to get in the room are the fleet of K Street lobbyists gearing up to protect their clients' interests. Dr. McDermott continues, "The best way to make the Committee accountable, thereby helping people trust the process, is to make the Committee open and transparent."
Yesterday our colleagues over at the Sunlight Foundation laid out five core steps the Committee should take, including providing live webcasts of all official meetings and hearings, posting the committee report for 72 hours before a final vote, a posted online record of every meeting held with lobbyists and other powerful interests, posting campaign contributions online as they are received, and an online posting of the financial disclosures of committee members and staffers. We urge you to join their campaign.
There is still more the Committee can, and should, do to make the process as democratic as possible. The Project On Government Oversight - POGO has made a few more suggestions for making sure the public has a seat at the table, and understands what Congress is hearing from lobbyists. If you have any additional suggestions, please email us.