A group made up largely of progressive Democrats wants all meetings of President Obama's fiscal commission to be broadcast, and says the panel should make some recommendations before, not after, November's midterm elections.
The commission's meetings should be "fully transparent and highly inclusive," the group of 16 House Democrats wrote in a letter to the commission chairmen, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. The signers, led by John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, include Congressional Progressive Caucus co-Chairman Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee of California.
The letter requests C-SPAN coverage and Internet streaming of all commission meetings, including "planning meetings, working meetings, drafting sessions, public meetings and all other sessions where commission work is performed or planned."
The group may fear closed-door attempts to suggest cuts in programs like Medicare or Social Security. Congressional Republicans made similar requests during the health care debate to try to tag Democrats as back-room dealmakers.
The Democrats also want to see interim recommendations from the panel before the election so that they can become a part of the debate. But Obama chose to have the panel make its recommendations on Dec. 1, after the midterms, to avoid exactly that. The letter also asked for an analysis that would show how commission proposals would affect groups such as seniors and children.
Bruce Reed, the commission's executive director, praised the ideas but said the panel would be sticking to its Dec. 1 deadline.
"It'll be quite a sprint to get them done by then," he said. "We're not looking to turn our homework in early."
The 18-member commission has a staff of four and a budget of $500,000. As for letting the cameras roll, Reed said they'll keep to their schedule of monthly public meetings, the next of which is May 26.
"It's not practical to invite C-SPAN any time two or more staff members of the commission are staring at budget tables," he said.
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