by Locker Room contributor
You will excuse me, I think, as I mix in ingredients found here with President Obama’s memorandum on open and transparent government.
My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.
Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.
House and Senate Democrats intend to bypass traditional procedures when they negotiate a final compromise on health care legislation, officials said Monday, a move that will exclude Republican lawmakers and reduce their ability to delay or force politically troubling votes in both houses. … There are literally hundreds of differences between the two bills, a House measure that ran to 1,990 pages and a Senate version of 2,074, not counting 383 pages of last-minute changes. The biggest differences involve a dispute over a government-run insurance option ? the House wants one, but the Senate bill omitted it ? as well as the size and extent of federal subsidies to help lower-income families afford coverage.
Bypassing a formal conference committee enables Democrats to omit time-consuming procedural steps in the Senate and prevents Republicans from trying to delay the final negotiations. …
Government should be participatory. Public engagement enhances the Government’s effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions. Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge. Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public input on how we can increase and improve opportunities for public participation in Government.
… Democrats will likely skip conference committee, opting instead to resolve the differences between the Senate and House versions via “ping-pong,” i.e. the two chambers sending the bill back and forth until they get a version they agree on. … House takes the Senate bill, amends it, sends it back to Senate for a stamp of approval and it?s on Obama?s desk. And, as one particularly blunt Democratic aide put it to TPM, going the ping-pong route “cuts out the Republicans.” There is less room for debate, filibuster or really any opposition input as the congressional leadership is largely in control of the process.
Government should be collaborative. Collaboration actively engages Americans in the work of their Government. Executive departments and agencies should use innovative tools, methods, and systems to cooperateamong themselves, across all levels of Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector. Executive departments and agencies should solicit public feedback to assess and improve their level of collaboration and to identify new opportunities for cooperation.
… Democrats would give up a chance to least slightly heal some of the wounds of a very bitter debate, allow health-care opponents to be heard one more time, perhaps offer a smart suggestion or two. This applies both to Republicans as well as liberal legislators, who would be also left with nowhere to take their demands….
House Democratic aide said that the process is likely to resemble an amendment process in which leadership will consult with various Democratic members, with the bill changing in light of concerns different lawmakers raise.
Democrats would enjoy some strategic advantages by declining the formal conference process. They would avoid having to go through a series of votes on appointing and directing conferees, and having to invoke cloture on a conference report. The process would presumably also allow Democrats to work out differences on the health bill internally, and avoid GOP manuevers to stall passage of the legislation. …
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus … “I am disappointed that there will be no formal conference process by which various constituencies can impact the discussion,” he said. “I have not been approached about my concerns with the Senate bill, and I will be raising those at the Democratic Caucus meeting on Thursday. I and other progressives saw a conference as a means to improve the bill and have a real debate, and now with this behind-the-scenes approach, we?re concerned even more.