Exposing the ‘Super Committee’ to sunshine

The 12-member “Super Committee,” created by the debt-ceiling agreement, doesn’t even have members yet, but in the coming months, the panel will be engaged in some heated negotiations.

And when they do, some Republicans want to be able to see — and want us to be able to see — what the competing members are saying.

Six Republican senators on Wednesday called on Senate leaders to ensure that a new congressional deficit-reduction committee meets in public and before television cameras.

The 12-member super committee, comprised of an equal number of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, was created by the debt-limit legislation signed into law Tuesday, and is responsible for identifying $1.2 trillion in spending cuts by Thanksgiving. But the law doesn’t require the committee’s meetings to be open to the public.

In their letter, Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), John Boozman (Ark.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Ron Johnson (Wisc.), Mike Lee (Utah), and David Vitter (La.) urged Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to make sure members of the public receive advanced notice of meetings, are able to attend them and can watch live broadcasts.

I find this terribly odd. Do these Republican senators not realize the GOP members of the committee will be pushing a wildly unpopular agenda?

We don’t know who’ll serve on this panel, but we can guess with confidence what its members will say. Republicans will argue for deep cuts to Medicare and Social Security, will fight tooth and nail to protect tax breaks for the wealthy and the oil industry. Democrats will largely be doing the opposite.

You don’t have to be a polling expert to know the Democratic approach will enjoy vastly more public support.

If these six GOP senators seriously believe their party would benefit from a more transparent process, they clearly need to get out more.

For the record, I tend to think an emphasis on transparency can be, at least in some instances, overrated. Sometimes, officials can produce worthwhile results when they’re allowed to speak candidly and openly, knowing their remarks aren’t being broadcast to anyone. It’s a mistake to necessarily assume that an open process is the ideal process. When I think about the concerns surrounding the “super committee,” the fact that they’ll be meeting behind closed doors isn’t at the top of the list.

But if this really is a top priority for Republicans, I’d suggest Dems take them up on the request for letting the sunshine in. Under the circumstances, the American mainstream would very likely recoil when confronted with what GOP members put on the table.