(Washington, DC) –Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) and a group of five Republican Senators wrote a letter to Senate leadership asking that all meetings of the new joint congressional committee created by the Budget Control Act be open to the public and available for television broadcast. The Senators also expressed concern about the closed-door nature of the joint committee meetings.
Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), John Boozman (R-AR), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Lee (R-UT), and David Vitter (R-LA) co-signed the letter.
“The American people have a right to know what their government is going to do with their tax dollars. Not only do closed door meetings by this Committee prevent the public from knowing how their dollars are being spent, but these meetings also have the potential to promote deals with special interests. Open door proceedings will allow the public to be their own advocates, rather than relying on games of inside baseball that too often dominate today’s Washington,” said Senator Heller.
All of the letter’s co-signers are also original co-sponsors of the Budget Control Joint Committee Transparency Act (S.1501), legislation Senator Heller introduced in the Senate yesterday. This bill mandates that proceedings of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction be transparent and open to the public.
Full text of the letter below:
August 3, 2011
The Honorable Harry Reid The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Democratic Leader Republican Leader
United States Senate United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510
Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:
The Budget Control Act (S.637) signed into law on August 2, 2011, creates a new joint congressional committee entrusted with recommending and ultimately crafting legislation to reduce our deficit by at least $1.2 trillion. We support addressing our national debt and warding off what has been called the “most predictable economic crisis” in our nation’s history. However, we are united in our concern about the authority granted to this committee.
As we understand it, this Committee essentially has the ability to craft their list of recommendations without any joint committee jurisdictions and without an open committee process. Furthermore, these recommendations are not subject to debate or an amendment process afforded the majority of legislation considered in the Senate.
We remain concerned that all aspects of the federal budget, including revenue increases, could be subject to the Committee’s recommendations. If our colleagues wish to raise taxes or propose spending cuts, the American people have a right to see that process unfold.
We ask you, as two of the appointers of the Committee, to ensure that all meetings and hearings are done in a transparent manner through advanced public notification, public attendance and live television broadcasts. Meetings will include any time a quorum of members are present to discuss committee related matters whether it be in person, over the phone or via teleconference.
All Americans should have the ability to see how the Committee crafts a concrete plan for our fiscal future. As original cosponsors of the Budget Control Joint Committee Transparency Act (S.1501), we stand firm in our belief that the public should understand how their tax dollars are being spent, which requires an open process rather than a series of closed-door meetings.
We recognize the very serious dangers posed by our nation’s debt and share your commitment to addressing it. As you begin to craft the Committee, we ask that you allow this process to unfold before the American people through an open debate. We remain committed to this issue and hope that it will be resolved prior to consideration of S. 1501.
In order to meet our nation’s financial obligations, this body must meet its obligation to the American people to do the work we were sent here to do. We look forward to your response to this request.
U.S. Senator Dean Heller
U.S. Senator David Vitter
U.S. Senator Mike Lee
U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte
U.S. Senator John Boozman
U.S. Senator Ron Johnson