The “Super Committee” has just finished its first organizational meeting, and we now know a little more about how it’s going to operate. While the committee has yet to publish its rules, they’ve been adopted, and discussed briefly during this first meeting.
Most significantly, it’s become clear that the joint committee will have public meetings. This hasn’t been clear, or required, since the law creating the joint committee was first passed over a month ago. As we’ve noted before, it’s an enormous relief that the committee has recognized the necessity of having official meetings in public, since a failure to do so would have been disastrously misguided. The announcement is also a response to the broad call for public meetings articulated by citizens, groups, and other lawmakers. Of course, we’ll have to see the actual rules to see how the requirement is worded.
Senator Murray also made clear that this committee is going to operate in a similar manner to other congressional committees, in accordance with typical chamber rules, allowing other working meetings to take place in private. Interestingly, Senator Kyl suggested that the joint committee’s final work will need to be online for 48 hours before the final vote. It’s unclear what he’s referring to — this could be a committee rule, or simply the way the members have agreed to do business. While Sunlight would prefer a full 72 hours before a final vote, it would be fantastic news if the committee is already committing to a final, online review period for their work. Without that commitment, the public could end up only analyzing the committee’s work after they’ve approved it (much like the law that created the Super Committee). We’re seeking clarification, and will update when we find out if this is a rule, or a commitment among members, or something else.
As we expected, the committee’s rules probably don’t have anything to say about lobbying or campaign finance disclosure. That information is absolutely essential to an accountable process, since existing requirements would only let us know what’s happening in mid-January, well after the committee’s work is done.
We’re pushing for committee members to voluntarily disclose lobbying and campaign finance information, online, and in real-time, and we’re also pushing for adoption of the Deficit Committee Transparency Act, introduced yesterday.
Update: Here’s part of Murray’s statement.
Update 2: Here’s Kyl.
The rules have now been released, for a complete update see this post. On the question of Kyl’s talk of 48 hours, the rules suggest that he’s talking about getting the bill done in time to have a CBO estimate to the committee members before final consideration, so it looks like the committee hasn’t committed at all to having their final product online before final consideration.