A Forthright Admission


In an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News yesterday, House Minority Leader John Boehner described the opaque methods by which Congress passes bills, echoing many of Sunlight’s criticisms of the current system, including: “Massive bills unveiled in the dark of night and rushed to a vote before anyone in America could possibly know the details. Wasteful pork projects stuffed into giant bills passed without scrutiny or debate. “

He followed with a remarkable admission:

Did the Republican Party miss an opportunity to do away with these broken congressional rituals when it held the majority in Congress? Yes.

In addition to acknowledging a lost opportunity to allow Congress and the public to read the bill, Boehner outlines a number of other transparency reforms that he will unveil soon. Many of the reforms he listed could have come out of the Sunlight playbook, although we would tweak a few important details. For example, we support putting bills for 72 hours before debate begins, not before a vote, to ensure sufficient time to amend legislation. We also would not limit cameras to just the Rules Committee. Instead we advocate video recordings in all committees.

We look forward to seeing the final list of initiatives when they are officially unveiled, and hope the changes are suggested in the spirit of bipartisanship and in a manner that the Democratic leadership can support. It’s likely that House Republicans have become champions of the cause of transparency at least in part because the minority party always views such reforms as a way to loosen the grip on the power the majority party holds. But the Democrats should recognize that they will not always be in the majority, and these reforms may be of benefit to them whenever the tide turns again. While they are at it, both sides should remember that much more important than the way in which greater transparency will impact their respective parties, is the greater good that will result when the public has the opportunity to see, understand and participate in the process.