Let the sunshine in

The next phase of the bipartisan debt-reduction talks gets underway today, with President Obama meeting at the White House with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). As the week progresses, Obama’s hands-on role in the talks will continue, with the hopes that the process can be wrapped up fairly quickly.

We won’t be able to watch the talks, of course, because they’ll unfold behind closed doors. One Republican senator would prefer a more transparent process.

The ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee says President Obama needs to bring the negotiations over increasing the debt ceiling out into the open.

“We might as well stake it out publicly to see what the disagreements are,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said Friday in an interview with The Hill. “I believe Majority Leader [Harry] Reid and the president desperately are working not to have to reveal their vision for the future, financially. Their vision will include, from what glimpses we’ve seen, an advocacy for more taxes and less spending cuts.”

Sessions said Democrats have been avoiding making public the negotiations and laying out precisely what they want in a debt-limit package because “what they’re advocating for, I don’t think would be popular.”

To borrow a line from Rupert Giles, I’d like to test that theory.

Look, Jeff Sessions may be inclined to believe his own press releases, but if he seriously believes the American mainstream prefers the GOP’s far-right line on debt reduction, the Alabama senator needs to get out more.

This isn’t even close to being a mystery — polls shows the public supports a balanced approach (some spending cuts, some tax increases), supports reductions in military spending, supports ending tax breaks for industries like Big Oil, and supports leaving Social Security and Medicare alone. This just happens to be the Democratic approach.

Sessions thinks the relevant players “might as well stake it out publicly to see what the disagreements are”? I’d bet money that Republican leaders disagree, but if the GOP senator is serious, Dems might as well accommodate his request. The Republican approach to these talks — protect the wealthy, protect the oil industry, target Medicare and Medicaid, make things harder for the middle class, take money out of a struggling recovery, or the GOP will crash the economy on purpose — is pretty radical. Dems would be lucky if voters were aware of what the parties are bringing to the table.

Sessions wants to let the sunshine in. That sounds like a great plan.