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'Super Congress' Must Be Open and Transparent

August 3, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The debt ceiling bill that was signed into law yesterday shunts off much of the dirty work of deciding exactly what to programs to cut or whose taxes to increase to a new “joint select committee on deficit reduction,” a.k.a the “Super Congress.” Whatever the Super Congress comes up with will be brought to the Senate and House for votes under expedited rules that bar amendments and limit filibusters. And the bill contains an enforcement mechanism designed to persuade members to vote for the Super Congress’ plan — if it fails, massive cuts to two sacred cows, Medicare and the Defense Department, would automatically take effect.

The Super Congress appears to be designed so that just a handful of lawmakers, who will probably be selected from very safe districts, have to make decisions about which constituents will bear the burdens of austerity. The vast majority of Congress will only have to take an up-or-down vote, and with the threat of cuts to seniors’ health care and precious jobs in teh defense industry, even if they vote for the Super Congress plan they’ll be able to tell constituents that they voted for the less bad of two bad options.

The Super Congress is all about limiting accountability for the tough decisions that nobody in Congress actually wants to make. Furthermore, nothing in the debt debt bill requires that the Super Congress itself be accessiblea and accountable to the public. Under the law, all of their meetings, votes, lobbyist visits, fundraising, etc., can be done secretively so that the public can not track the discussions or give feedback.

But even though the Super Congress doesn’t have to be transparent under the law, there’s nothing stopping them from being open if they believe it’s the right thing to do. Our friends at the Sunlight Foundation have five specific transparency recommendations that the Super Congress should adopt:

  • Live webcasts of all official meetings and hearings
  • The Committee’s report should be posted for 72 hours before a final committee vote
  • Disclosure of every meeting held with lobbyists and other powerful interests
  • Disclosure of campaign contributions as they are received (on their campaign websites)
  • Financial disclosures of Committee members and staffers

You can add you name to a petition demanding these recommendations be adopted at the bottom of this page.

One more thing. The way the debt bill was rushed through Congress, in violation of the House Republicans’s 72-hour pledge and Obama’s pledge to post bills online for 5 days before signing them, pretty much guaranteed that we’d be here, after the bill is law, asking for changes. The bill was posted online after midnight on August 1st, and by 7 pm that same day it had passed the House. If congressional leaders and the Obama Administration actually care about the principles embodied in the pledges they violated with this bill, they’ll heed our call for a transparent Super Committee and go above and beyond the law to guarantee that the public is not locked out again.

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  • sanchk 08/03/2011 3:08pm

    I was wondering if you guys know of any reports, bills, deals, or anything that Congress has had to delay passage of because of the debt ceiling debate. The recent shutdown of the FAA sparked my interest, since Congress was unable to approve legislation that would have extended the authority’s funding, and now that they’re taking a one month recess the agency will remain unfunded for at least another month. Do you know of any other legislation that is in this same predicament?

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    notbobslc 08/03/2011 4:51pm

    We can only hope that other bureaucracies will suffer as well.

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    MikeLee 02/27/2012 10:22pm

    Good Point! I think they should really take a serious look at it. wood pellet mill

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  • MTeinert 08/03/2011 3:22pm

    So I guess we are now to live under a dictatorship under an excuse of a national debt that is a complete scam. So guess what people. Say good bye to the constitution. If you dont do what this supercongress says than they will do what they want. Congradulations people we have now officially given up our liberty. We should start coming up with a new name for this country because this sure isn’t America!!!

  • ventrellaca 08/03/2011 4:04pm

    I think that this has to be the worst idea ever thought up. I find this to be very outrageous. And the worst is, its not just one party causeing trouble, its both of them. First, our president breaks his 5 day pledge, and the Speaker of the House breaks his 72 hour pledge. But that’s not the worst. The worst is this Super Congress. Essentially its another house. That’s all that this is. Even worse, its another house with more power. It twists both the Senate and the House into fufilling its demands. If there is more of one party than the other, then whatever that house decides on will be what becomes law. This law completely tramples our constitution and ruins our government.

  • notbobslc 08/03/2011 4:50pm

    ‘Super Congress’ Must Be Open and Transparent – that is the last thing it will ever be is open and transparent. The only thing transparent in D.C. are the lies told to the masses!

  • JedSmith 08/03/2011 7:53pm

    Get someone to ask the wrong questions, and it doesn’t matter what their answers are – - -

    Asking how to make a so called Super Congress more accountable and signing a petition on that is completely off the mark. This is un-Constitutional. This Congress is usurping their own and future Congresses capacity to engage in the governing process. They cannot do that under the Constitution, it is not theirs to violate. There is no super Congress in the Constitution, and Congress is supposed to be the accountable representatives of the People. Its likely that many of them didnt even read it, much less contemplate the impact of this. Most reps and senators just do as their told by their party ‘leadership’. Just check the voting records, most of them vote along party lines. Boehner, McConnell, and Reid (Repubs & Dems) all wanted this in the bill. People need to contact their so-called representatives and express their anger at this outrageous, despicable act.

  • iggie75 08/04/2011 9:19pm

    I’m trying to vote on the bill and I get to the box for street address, then I get no more boxes for City, State, and Phone number. It won’t let me advance without those fields being filled in. Can someone take a look at that?

  • MikeLee 02/27/2012 10:24pm

    The title is really great! I am looking forward to see a super congress to boost my wood pellet mill business.

  • MikeLee 02/27/2012 10:24pm

    The title is really great! I am really looking forward to see a super congress to boost my wood pellet mill business.

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  • MikeLee 02/27/2012 10:49pm

    The title is really great! I am really looking forward to see a super congress to boost my energy saving light business.

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