Yesterday during the debate on the Senate ethics legislation Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Co.), along with cosponsor Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), introduced an amendment to require that each Senate committee and subcommittee post to their website “a video recording, audio recording, or transcript of any meeting not later than 14 business days after the meeting occurs.” Salazar’s amendment (SA 15), which modifies Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nevada) substitute amendment SA 3, was agreed to by a voice vote yesterday.
Since only 49% of committee and subcommittee meetings in the 109th Congress were placed on their respective committee websites the above mentioned formats this amendment would go a long way to expanding public access to the committee process. Here’s a bit of what Salazar said on the floor yesterday when he introduced his amendment:
While Senate rules require that committee meetings be open to the public and that each committee prepare and keep a complete transcript or electronic recording of all of its meetings, it still remains very difficult for citizens to figure out what actually goes on in our committee rooms. According to one estimate, a transcript or electronic recording is available online for only about one-half of all Senate committee and subcommittee hearings. Only for one-half of those hearings is there made available a transcript that the public can actually access. That number is far too low. There is no reason why, in this day of modern technology and communications, we should not be able to achieve a goal of 100 percent.
I know we often refer to Justice Brandeis because he was one of those great jurists who really illuminated our times with some of his wisdom, his jewels that have become almost cliches that captured the moment. I remember Justice Brandeis's famous line where he said, “Sunshine is said to be the best of disinfectants.”
He almost got the Brandeis quote right; it’s a catchy phrase nonetheless. Soon all the politicians will be saying it.