Public Meetings of Super Committee Few and Far Between
by Craig Jennings, 10/27/2011
It's been 48 days since the Super Committee's last public meeting on Sept. 8 (and over a month passed between the Super Committee's second and third public hearings). For those of us who have been watching the Super Committee since day one, eagerly awaiting information on the specifics of its proposal for cutting $1.5 trillion dollars from the federal deficit, 48 days of radio silence not only has us on edge, it also has us questioning the Super Committee's commitment to transparency and the democratic process.
In early August, when President Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2011 (aka the debt ceiling deal) into law, he also approved the creation of a 12-member Super Committee charged with finding $1.5 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years. In response, OMB Watch joined other public interest groups in demanding transparency from the Super Committee. We created SuperCommitteeWatch.org as a clearinghouse for information about the committee and its pending deficit-reduction proposal, and we wrote up a list of specific transparency asks. We asked for access to:
- Live and archived webcasts of all meetings and hearings
- Witness lists and hearing agendas
- Proposals and supporting documentation
- A means to collect and aggregate public feedback and reactions to the proposals being considered
Despite the requests of the open government community, we've seen only one public meeting and three public hearings (the third held yesterday). While we acknowledge that the Super Committee has taken initiative by archiving videos of the hearings on their official website, we can't help but feel disappointed at what little effort they've made thus far to include the American people in their decision-making process. Considering the effect the final proposal will have on the lives of Americans nationwide, we think the nation deserves Super Committee transparency on a much larger scale.
Reporters at The New York Times attempted on Tuesday to give us a progress report on the Super Committee's activities. Most of what they managed to uncover, however, were vague references to an apparent stalemate between parties from anonymous sources.
With a Nov. 23 deadline looming over them, the Super Committee is in need of a solution to their apparent stalemate. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) told The New York Times that the members of the Super Committee are "no more autonomous than your left thumb. They need some guidance from the White House and from the leadership of Congress."
Here's an idea – how about some guidance from the American people? The Los Angeles Times reported that the Super Committee has received more than 180,000 recommendations from "lawmakers, advocacy groups and ordinary Americans." We'd like to know exactly what these recommendations are, who is making them, and whether or not the committee is taking them into account as they work toward a deficit-reduction plan.
We urge the Super Committee to make public these recommendations, as well as more of its meetings between now and Nov. 23. Let the American people weigh in on what revenue options or spending cuts they'd like to see. Allow them to actively participate in the decisions that will, no doubt, have a huge impact on their lives. Restore some credibility to our democracy. Help the American people participate in their own governance.
If you're interested in getting involved, our colleagues at the Sunlight Foundation have organized a great way for you to have your voice heard. Join them as they "Haunt the House" on October 31. They'll be heading to Super Committee members' offices all around the country to remind them who they work for, and they want you to be there!
The Super Committee has 27 days until its final proposal is due. Let's hope these next 27 days are more transparent than the last 48.