Televise the House-Senate Negotiations

Just over two years ago, when Democrats gained the majority on Capitol Hill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to run the most open Congress in history. And President Obama made providing the most transparent government a central promise of his campaign. As the House and Senate move to negotiate the final text of the so-called stimulus bill, I have called on Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to make good on that promise and allow any and all House and Senate negotiations to take place in an open and public forum. By allowing television cameras in the room as negotiations take place, we can provide the transparency American taxpayers expect.

Unfortunately, we have learned this morning that negotiations have already begun under the dark of night. In closed room somewhere in the Capitol Building last night, Congressional Democrats and Obama administration officials met with no Republicans present.

Rules for the conference committee dictate that there must be an open hearing for negotiations, but that hearing is controlled entirely by the majority party. It is the prerogative of congressional Democrats as to whether the hearing will be an honest and open forum or instead a dog and pony show while real negotiations take place in a smoke-filled backroom. With a trillion dollars of taxpayer money currently at stake, it is critical to provide the American people a full and complete understanding of how it is going to be spent. In addition to allowing open media access to conference committee negotiations, the bill itself must be made available to the public by placing a full searchable, downloadable final draft online for 48 hours before holding a final vote. A Republican proposal adopted earlier today does just that.

As the public has learned more about this enormous spending bill, support has plummeted. If, as is expected, Democrats use the conference committee negotiations to jam through a bill full of non-stimulative spending projects, they deserve to be held responsible by those they are supposed to represent. Instead of using a cloak of privacy to dole out taxpayer money through shady backroom deals, all negotiations must be held under the watchful eye of the American people.