When Democrats decided against televising health care reconciliation negotiations last month, they were blasted by congressional Republicans. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), for example, wrote:
There’s no good reason to keep the negotiations of the health-care bill secret – unless, of course, the President and congressional Democrats know that Americans wouldn’t like what they see and the only way they can get this bill is to write it in secret and pass it quickly, before the American people know what’s in it.
The major reason Republicans joined the media in calling for televised negotiations was that they saw a political opportunity to attack Democrats and claim that they — and the American people — needed to be part of the process. However, Republicans are far less concerned about transparency for the public on the Senate’s jobs bill, since some of the closed-door negotiations involve the GOP. Fox News reports that Kyl in particular is perfectly happy with backroom deals this time:
While much has been made of “backroom deals” over healthcare reform, no such outcry has come on the jobs bill. One reason? A handful of Republicans have been in the back room this time. Kyl, who loudly decried the closed door sausage-making on healthcare legislation, had a softer tone on the jobs bill.
“The truth of the matter is, a lot of things here are done by staff behind closed doors, and it’s not always the wrong way to put something together, as long as you have plenty of time for that product to get out to members so they can evaluate it, have the public take a look at it. … If you’re going to forgo the committee process, then you at least have to get it out to members so they can reflect on it. And that’s why you can’t vote on it by Thursday or Friday,” Kyl said.
To be sure, there are thoughtful, legitimate cases to be made both for and against letting cameras into typically closed-door proceedings. CAP President and CEO John Podesta argued that “corruption in government begins at the moment when officials in power believe no one is paying attention,” whereas the Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky pointed out that in front of the cameras during the health care debate, lawmakers spent most of their time “[g]randstanding” and “launching unnecessary rhetorical attacks” while the real work went on behind the scenes. However, abandoning calls for transparency just because you get a chance to be in the back room and want to make deals in private is hardly a legitimate reason.