By ANDRE FRANCISCO
The new joint committee created by the debt limit bill to recommend $1.5 trillion in cuts will wield a lot of power, but that also means there is going to be a lot of lobbying and other attempts at influence headed their way.
Because of this potential for major lobbying, POGO and others are calling for the so-called "super Congress" to go beyond the standard practices of transparency for congressional committees to create an open and trustworthy committee to deal with the massive debt problem.
Right now, the creation of the committee doesn’t come with many requirements for transparency.
"The only thing that I saw in the legislation was that they should make public their proposal and legislative language. That's not going to cut it. That's not even the minimum we should expect," POGO’s Director of Public Policy Angela Canterbury told The Huffington Post.
The panel should aim for transparency so that the public can trust that its decisions are based on sound thinking and not lobbying dollars. POGO has some suggestions to keep the super committee transparent:
- There should be a website for the committee.
- All hearings and meetings should be live webcast, and those videos and transcripts archived and made available on the website.
- All agendas, witness lists, and testimony should be posted on the website at least 48 hours before the hearing/meeting.
- All proposals and supporting documentation received from standing House and Senate committees should be posted on the website as received.
- All Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyses and scores, including information about the baseline that is being used, and other information utilized by the committee should be disclosed.
- All versions of proposals for consideration by the committee should be made available on the website at least 72 hours before a hearing on the proposal or before a vote.
- Staff for the committee should be posted on the website.
- The committee should ask for and post on their website public comments on their proposal before finalizing it.
- There should be contact information and at least a webform for communicating with the committee and staff.
POGO also supports the five ideas blogged here by Sunlight Foundation’s John Wonderlich, which include live webcasts of all official meetings and hearings, posting the committee report for 72 hours before a final vote, a posted online record of every meeting held with lobbyists and other powerful interests, posting campaign contributions online as they are received, and an online posting of the financial disclosures of committee members and staffers.
The Huffington Post noted that the Obama administration has often set special lobbying disclosure rules—Congress and this critical joint committee should be at least as transparent and accountable.
Andre Francisco is a POGO communications associate.