Friday, July 24, 2009

Behind Closed Doors

Oh, no one knows what goes on behind closed doors.
A Reuters news story today reports that President Obama's push for health care reform suffered a set back when Senate leaders announced a bill would not be passed before the month-long summer recess. That is by now old news. This is the part of the story that I found interesting:
The reform package under construction in both chambers of Congress has been besieged from all sides by criticism of its more than $1 trillion price tag and
its scope, with debates behind closed doors over how to pay for the program and
rein in healthcare costs.(link)
And then this:
In the Senate, a bipartisan group of Finance Committee members continued their
closed-door meetings to work through policy options on the bill.
I guess I have been under the impression that the people's business was to be conducted in public. I thought that only matters involving classified national security issues could be deliberated in secret. Apparently I was mistaken and that is not true.

I know in Tennessee that we have a very strict "Sunshine Law" and it not only applies to the State Legislature but all rule making bodies such as boards and commission and all units of local government. Two council members can not meet for lunch and discuss pending legislation. The press is vigilant in ensuring that the sunshine law is not violated. Years ago, when I first began serving in the Metro Council the Budget and Finance Committee would meet in secret to hammer out a budget every year. I did not approve of the process. I know it is easier to negotiate and horse trade without the public looking over your shoulder, but I think public business should be conducted in public. By the time I left the Council, the Council had abandoned the practice.

I know the presidential campaign, and before that the congressional campaign, was a long time ago but it seems I recall that candidate Obama and Democratic congressional candidates talked about changing the way things were done in Washington. It seems like I recall they said they would be more open and less secretive. Did they not say something about "transparency?" Nah, I must of dreamed that.

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