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Supercommittee Meeting Secretly

September 28, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The “public access and transparency” rules that the deficit supercommittee adopted when they first convened contain a major loophole. If they want to block the media and the public out of their meetings, all they have to do is vote to do so and they can operate in total secrecy. Not surprisingly, invoking that loophole seems to have become their standard operating procedure.


The supercommittee has become supersecret about most of what it’s doing.

On Tuesday, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) encapsulated the attitude of the members of the Joint Deficit Reduction Committee: “I don’t want to discuss what we discussed.”

As 12 lawmakers tackle the historic task of slashing at least $1.2 trillion from the nation’s deficit, they have spent lots of time behind closed doors, speaking almost nothing of their proceedings while leaving behind little more than a trail of sandwich wrappers and unanswered questions.

Roll Call notes that, "to date, “members [of the supercommittee] have had more meetings behind closed doors than they have in public.”

We really shouldn’t be surprised by this. The supercommittee is an anti-democratic institution by design. Not only is it’s proposal guaranteed a vote and sheltered from filibusters and amendments, but it’s members appear to have been chosen in order to limit electoral accountability as well.

Respectfully disagreeing with Matt Yglesias, for these reasons it is especially important that the public has access to the bargaining process. Once the supercommittee proposal is done, there will be zero opportunity for meaningful public input. The Budget Control Act specifies that no amendments will be made in order, no committee mark-ups will be held, etc. If the public does not have access to information about what’s on the table at this point in the process, their ability to give feedback will be limited to advocating a yes or no vote on passage. That’s just not sufficient. Everyone knows that to actually affect legislation, you have to get involved at the earliest stages of the legislative process. The way the supercommittee is operating guarantees that the public can only be involved at the very last stage. 

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  • Brian62 09/28/2011 6:18pm


    Let’s stop dancing around the dog pile and call it for what it is. This is unconstitutional and each these UBER CONGRESS members has violated their oath, as did McConnell, Reid, Harkens, Boehner, Pelosi, and each person that voted for this. We need to wake up as a country. This could never of happened 50 years ago.

    We need to return the states place at the table of the Federal Government and repeal the 17th Amendment, then we’ll have some actual over-site and democratic republicanism.

  • Comm_reply
    MikeLee 02/24/2012 3:11am

    I think your comment is very good and meaningful. To make something that really helps the people, the congress should somehow truly change their policy strategy.
    LED spot lighting

  • eth111 09/29/2011 7:27am

    Can you say Politburo? The real issue becomes not what is electorally safe for the members, but what is in it for them personally down the road.

    The fall of the USSR 20 years ago did not end communism, it simply removed its most visible manifestation. The strategy, tactics, and structure for an oppressive government (regardless of what PoliSci label you put on it) have been in full bloom right here in the good old USA since then.

    By the way, this is not unique to Fedzilla. Most states have executive order commissions that generate significant legislation that gets pencil-whipped through the state legislature. They typically contain members from the legislative, executive, and judicial branches in the same commission (separation of powers anyone) and refuse to comply with open meeting laws.

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