Following up on the previous post on committee transparency I decided to take a look at the House committee websites to find out how readily available recordings and/or transcripts of committee meetings actually are. Congressional committees are supposed to be transparent and are supposed to make available to the public the full contents of open committee hearings and mark-ups. This, of course, isn’t always the case as we shall see.
House Rules state that:
(e)(1)(A) Each committee shall keep a complete record of all committee action which shall include–
(i) in the case of a meeting or hearing transcript, a
substantially verbatim account of remarks actually made during the
proceedings, subject only to technical, grammatical, and typographical
corrections authorized by the person making the remarks involved; and
(ii) a record of the votes on any question on which a record vote
In following with these rules you would expect to find “a substantial verbatim account of remarks actually made during the proceedings” on each House committee website — the web being the easiest way to make publicly available committee information. Let’s take a look at what these individual committees provide in accordance with the House Rules.
What I went looking for was not the usual submitted copies of testimony but the actual testimony given by witnesses with members of Congress asking questions and so on. The format does not matter. It could be video, audio, or a printed transcript of a committee meeting, so long as it is not solely the submitted opening statements and testimony of witnesses.
Note: According to the General Printing Office (GPO) it takes 30-90 days to create a printed transcript of a committee meeting. The numbers for each committee include both full and subcommittee meetings. The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct was passed over for obvious reasons.
Agriculture Committee: The Agriculture Committee makes 98% of its committee transcripts available on their website. Only one committee meeting lacks a transcript and it falls in the 30-90 days in which it takes the GPO to create a printed transcript. Thus we can expect that the Committee will reach 100% transcript availability.
Appropriations Committee: Not only is this website annoyingly confusing, it also contains no transcripts, no audio, and no video of Committee meetings. Lack of transparency must help these guys slip all those earmarks in.
Armed Services Committee: The Armed Services Committee relies on audio to pass on the Committee hearings to the public. For 2005 48 out of 81 Committee meetings contain a link to an audio of that meetings and 1 of the 81 provides a link to the text of the meeting. For 2006 66 out of 79 meetings contain a link to an audio of the meeting. In total 71% of the Committee’s meetings provide a link to either an audio or text file of that meeting.
Budget Committee: The Budget Committee has provided access to Committee meetings in all ways imaginable. For 2005, the Committee provides an audio file for 13 out of 13 Committee meetings and a link to the printed transcript for 11 out of the 13. For 2006, the Committee provides an audio file for 7 out of the 10 meetings, a video file for all 10 meetings, and a link to the printed transcript for 7 out of the 10 meetings. One-hundred percent of the Budget Committee’s meetings are available to the public online.
Education & Workforce Committee: The Education & Workforce Committee is almost perfect on the transparency test. For 2005 the Committee provides a link to the printed transcript of all 26 meetings they held. For 2006 the Committee provides a link to the printed transcript of 24 out of 30 Committee meetings. For the entire 109th Congress 80% of all Committee meetings contained a link to a printed transcript.
Energy & Commerce Committee: These guys like to mix it up. For 2005 the Committee provides an audio link for 15 out of 101 Committee meetings and a video link for 47 out of 101 meetings. For 2006 the Committee provides an audio link for 20 out of 103 meetings and a video link for 42 out of 103 Committee meetings. In total the Committee provides an audio or video link for meetings 61% of the time in the 109th Congress.
Financial Services Committee: The Financial Services Committee seems to have fallen behind at some point. For 2005 the Committee provides a link to a printed transcript for 67 out of 68 meetings. So far for 2006 the Committee provides a printed transcript link to only 18 out of 57 meetings. Few of those meetings without a link to any kind of transcript or audio/video fall in the 30-90 day period that it takes to develop a printed transcript. For the 109th Congress the Committee only provides transcripts for 67.2% of its total meetings.
Government Reform Committee: You would imagine that this would be the most transparent Committee, but it’s not. In fact, I couldn’t find one link to a printed transcript, video file, or audio file of the Committee’s meetings. For the 109th Congress Government Reform gets a big zero.
Homeland Security Committee: This one was an embarrassment! The Committee doesn’t even list every meeting. In 2005 the Committee held 74 meetings but the website only lists 6 of them. In 2006 the Committee held 74 meetings but the website only lists 50 of them. No transcripts, no audio or video.
House Administration Committee: For the 109th Congress the House Administration Committee provides a link to the printed transcript or audio of their meetings 68% of the time. For 2005 the Committee provides a link to a printed transcript 8 out of 12 times (no audio back then). For 2006 the Committee provides a link to an audio file 2 out of 13 times and a link to a printed transcript 7 out of 13 times. The only meetings which do not provide an audio file or a link to a printed transcript are mark-up meetings.
Intelligence Committee: The House Intelligence Committee website is as transparent as the intelligence community itself, which is not at all.
International Relations Committee: Of the Committees that meet the most often International Relations is by far the most consistent in providing video and a link to a printed transcript. Of the 145 meetings in 2005, 143 have a link to a printed transcript and 95 have a link to a video file. For 2006 the Committee provides a link to a printed transcript for 89 out of 103 meetings and a link to a video file for 60 out of 103 meetings. In total Committee meetings contain a link to a video file or a printed transcript (or both) 98% of the time.
Judiciary Committee: This year the Judiciary Committee added a link to video for a large portion of their meetings. Previously they had only provided a link to the printed transcript. For 2005 the Committee provides a link to a printed transcript for 89 out of 122 meetings. For 2006 the Committee provides a link to a printed transcript for 64 out of 105 meetings and a video link for 98 out of 105 meetings. In total the 109th Congress’ Judiciary Committee provides saved online access to their hearings 83% of the time.
Resources Committee: Of all the Committees that have higher than a 0% online access to public meetings the Resources Committee gets the lowest percentage. Only one Committee meeting provides a link to a printed transcript. Thus the Committee only provides a link to their Committee meetings for 0.5% of their meetings.
Rules Committee: The nickname for the Rules Committee is “the Dracula Congress”. Guess how transparent they are. About as transparent as a casket.
Science Committee: For 2005 the Science Committee provided a link to video files of hearings for 35 out of the 44 committee meetings. For 2006 the Committee has provided video links for 29 out of 39 meetings. In total the Committee has provided a video link to each meeting 77% of the time for the 109th Congress.
Small Business Committee: The Small Business Committee joins the ranks of the “zeroes” with no printed transcripts, no video files, and no audio for any Committee meeting.
Transportation & Infrastructure Committee: Second to only the Appropriations Committee in earmarking the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee does not provide any transcript, video, or audio of their meetings.
Veteran’s Affairs Committee: For 2005 the Veteran’s Affairs Committee provides audio files for 36 out of 43 meetings. For 2006 the Committee provides an audio file for 29 out of 46 meetings and a printed transcript for 5 out of 46 meetings. For the entire 109th Congress the Committee provides a link to an audio file or a printed transcript 73% of the time.
Ways & Means Committee: The Ways & Means Committee actually provides transcripts of meetings printed on their actual website (most others take you to the GPO’s site). For 2005 the Committee provides a transcript for all 54 of their meetings. For 2006 the Committee provides a transcript for 32 out of 38 meetings with 3 of those meetings without coming within the current 30-90 period. For the 109th Congress the Committee provides transcripts for 93% of their meetings.
All House committee websites in total provide a link to a printed transcript, video file, or audio file for each individual meeting during the 109th Congress 49% of the time.
Next up: Senate Committee websites.