13.02.09

An update on government transparency

Tags: , , , , , — Jeff @ 11:02

I commented earlier about governmental transparency and cited the proposed stimulus bill as an instance where transparency had not yet been achieved. Since the final iteration of the stimulus (more accurately, a conference report resolving differences between the House and Senate bills previously approved) is coming to final votes in both houses today assuming all goes according to plan, I think a brief update on the situation is in order.

As far as I understand it, the final version of the stimulus was first sent to lobbyists on Washington, D.C.’s K Street late Wednesday or early yesterday. Sometime strictly after that, congressmen received final copies. Finally, last night at 23:32 EST, Speaker Pelosi (more precisely, a staff member) announced the final conference report and joint bill text; the two are split across multiple government sites, so they may have been available earlier given extra diligence in searching for them, but it’s impossible to say. One news source says the House vote may come around 13:00 or 14:00 EST today (so about as I make this post), or about 13-14 hours after the initial public posting; the Senate vote may come sometime later in the evening, or perhaps around 22 hours later at most. It’s not quite the 48 hours unanimously agreed to by the House around, roughly, H1096 in the congressional records of the House from February 10 (readthestimulus.org has better details, but they don’t also have good permalinks, so search for “48” in the page), but 13-14 hours (or some unspecified amount of time more, if the text was released earlier in private) should be close enough for everyone, right?

The Speaker really could have done a better job of making the process a bit more transparent, but I suppose she thinks in an emergency the agreed-upon rules can’t be accorded muchany importance if they get in the way of “necessary” legislation. To be clear, this isn’t President Obama’s bailiwick, so he can’t be faulted for this lack of transparency; it would have been nice, however, if he had publicly noted it and requested the process be modified. It’s understandable that President Obama isn’t bringing this short-circuited process to greater light given that it’s a bill drafted by his own party, but it’s not exactly commendable, either.

2 Comments »

  1. It’s understandable that President Obama isn’t bringing this short-circuited process to greater light given that it’s a bill drafted by his own party, but it’s not exactly commendable, either.

    No, it’s not understandable. What happened to post-partisanship? Calling a spade a spade is the right thing to do even if it’s “one of your own”. Your rationalization doesn’t hold up…

    [I don’t think Obama cares about post-partisanship. What I think he cares about in this royal mess he’s created by completely delegating the wording in the stimulus to Congress is that he avoid getting on the wrong side of his own side, no matter how richly they might deserve it, because he thinks if he does they’re never going to work with him (or will make a fight of it any time they partially disagree, at least). Since I happen to think that’s the case, I think his inaction, from his point of view, is understandable. He might think this spade’s a spade, and he may even think it’s the morally right thing to do to call them on it, but that merely means his decision is expedient and unprincipled, not that it isn’t understandable.

    Also, to be clear, I’m rationalizing from his point of view, not from anyone else’s. I think the whole stimulus bill is a mess, but if I’m trying to convince people of that fact, or to convince them that Obama’s not the change we have been waiting for but rather just another politician, and a misguided one at that, demonstrating contradictions without explicitly naming them as such very well might be a better way to get people to start questioning their political beliefs than to argue and put them in mental firewall mode immediately.]

    Comment by pjl — 13.02.09 @ 13:42

  2. As long as “necessary” is understood in a VERY restrictive way it might be alright to put it like that.*looks over to the Courts, thinking it might be their role to ensure that one day*

    [Good luck getting that interpretation. I don’t care who’s in power, “necessary” would be stretched exactly as far as it needs to be stretched to pass legislation that’s deemed useful. Rules are rules. You don’t break them just because you don’t like them; if you don’t like the rules, you change them through whatever methods are in place to do so.

    As for the courts, good luck on that one, too. “Emergency” is a reasonably vague term, and evaluations of its applicability to situations or legislation require a measure of subjective opinion. Given that, any situation of this nature would likely be addressed using the political question doctrine, in which the courts would say, “We decline to intervene.” And to be honest, I’m not sure I’d disagree, bad though the consequences might be.]

    Comment by jj — 14.02.09 @ 02:41

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