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Supercommittee operating in secret

By Jake Sherman and Matt Dobias for Politico

The supercommittee has become supersecret about most of what it’s doing.

On Tuesday, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) encapsulated the attitude of the members of the Joint Deficit Reduction Committee: “I don’t want to discuss what we discussed.”

As 12 lawmakers tackle the historic task of slashing at least $1.2 trillion from the nation’s deficit, they have spent lots of time behind closed doors, speaking almost nothing of their proceedings while leaving behind little more than a trail of sandwich wrappers and unanswered questions.

It’s a remarkable show of secrecy after an election year that ushered in nearly 90 new Republicans who rejected the idea that sweeping legislation would be authored outside the public view.

Tuesday was the second straight closed-door day for the supercommittee.

The panel met for roughly 6½ hours in the Capitol, and when its members left, they wouldn’t answer basic, innocuous questions about the policies they were discussing nor specify when the next meeting would take place.

After the lawmakers left, staff seemed to clear the room of paperwork so as to leave no trace of evidence about how they were tackling the grave task of saving the nation’s fiscal health. They didn’t, however, clean up the dozens of napkins, used plates, potato-chip wrappers and plates strewn throughout the room. They left those for the custodians to pick up.

Nobody took questions — the supercommittee members rarely do. And when their meetings let out, they make a bipartisan dash for the exits.

Asked whether the committee was living up to the promise of transparency, Kerry said that they’re “living up to the commitment of getting the job done for the American people.” He said “some” meetings will be open, “some will not.”

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) ran down a set of stairs, declining to talk, saying he had to catch a flight. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) ducked reporters as he exited. Rep. Dave Camp, the Michigan Republican who chairs the powerful Ways and Means Committee, left using a back exit. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) drew a crowd of reporters as he walked up a flight of stairs, sidestepping any questions about policy.

“Right now, as you know, we have a lot of meetings, a lot of conversations,” he said. “We’re going to continue that next week. We met for seven hours today, seven hours yesterday, so we’re just going to keep at it.”

Asked by a reporter whether or not the level of detail behind closed doors matched what the members shared publicly, Van Hollen chuckled. “Let’s not get into the details right now on that question,” he said. “We’re having a healthy exchange of views.”

Senators were no different. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who exited the meeting from a side door, followed a staffer to at least one dead end before they reversed course and found an escalator.

Asked whether he would stop to answer a few questions, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said, “No I won’t, but thank you for asking.”

“I think you all know the rules,” Kyl said to reporters. “If you want to talk to somebody, talk to our two co-chairmen. Thank you.”

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One Response to “Supercommittee operating in secret”
  1. Richard Heckler says:

    This is the only budget that does everything this country needs:

    * Creates good-paying jobs
    * Fully maintains our social safety net
    * Invests in education
    * Ends our costly wars
    * Closes the tax loopholes that have made offshoring jobs profitable
    * Ends oil and gas subsidies that pollute our country at taxpayer expense
    * Creates a national infrastructure investment bank to help us make intelligent investments for the future

    This budget represents the future we believe in as Americans, and the CPC really needs our support to keep it on the front burner. Please call your member of Congress, now. The debate and vote on The People’s Budget is scheduled to take place early Friday morning.

    This is one of those occasions we all hope we’ll live to see: We really can make a difference right now if we speak up loudly with one voice.

    The People’s Budget represents not just common sense; it represents the will of the American people.

    The People’s Budget is getting mainstream attention, but it won’t hold that attention unless we speak up about how important our values really are. These aren’t just words on a page or numbers in a table—these dollars and cents mean lives helped or hurt, people succeeding or falling by the wayside, and families lifted up or dragged down. This is about America.
    http://www.pdamerica.org/get-informed/view/critical-vote-on-the-peoples-budget-scheduled-for-9-am-tomorrow/

    What the Peoples Budget does very specifically:

    http://cpc.grijalva.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=70&sectiontree=5,70

    http://www.npr.org/2011/04/15/135435883/the-nation-obama-should-fight-for-peoples-budget

    http://www.democracynow.org/2011/4/14/while_obama_touts_compromise_with_gop

    http://www.thenation.com/blog/159939/fighting-peoples-budget