OCTOBER 11, 2011
Typical of the way government functions, the influential congressional committee formed recently to find ways of reducing the nation’s monstrous budget deficit is doing most of its work in secret.Known as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the bipartisan panel was concocted to save the country from the dire financial crisis that has gripped it throughout President Barack Obama’s tenure. By the end of November the 12-member committee—equally split between Senate and House Democrats and Republicans—is supposed to make miraculous recommendations that will then be voted on by the full House and Senate under special rules.The goal is to reduce the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade. But the “Super Committee,” as it’s frequently called, is conducting most of its businesses behind closed doors even though the fruit of its labor will have a profound effect on the entire country. In fact, the panel’s Democratic chairwoman, Washington State Senator Patty Murray, has asked her constituents for ideas that could be “implemented by the Joint Select Committee to help move our country in the right direction.”“At this critical time for our country your involvement is important to ensuring that we can find common ground solutions that work for real families,” Senator Murray writes in a letter pleading for the public’s input. …”I want to hear from you,” she stresses.But she doesn’t want Americans, or fellow lawmakers who don’t sit on her committee, to know what’s going on behind the scenes. In a mainstream newspaper story about the panel’s secrecy Murray claims it must deliberate in private so members can be “open and honest with each other.” Someone needs to tell the senator that openness is what keeps government honest.Senator Murray offered a rather amusing anecdote to justify the committee’s secrecy: “I remember well one time when I was very little and I was fighting with my brother every other minute, and my mother put us in a back room and said, ‘Don’t come out until you got it figured out.’ We stared at each other for a while, but we came our friends.”The touching childhood tale failed to convince several lawmakers who don’t sit on the panel. One U.S. Senator, New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte, insisted “the American people deserve to know what is happening in this committee,” adding that the “negotiations should be fully open. We don’t get a better result for the people of this country when things are done behind closed doors.”Another lawmaker, Utah Senator Mike Lee, said he’s not aware of any other legislative committee responsible for matters of such “profound sweeping importance” operating in secret. Utah Senator Dean Heller has coined the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction the “super-secret committee.”
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