Senators to Gather in Closed MeetingBefore even getting to the more serious matters, can we all say "political tin ear" together? One of the key talking points of the Dem campaign was a promise for more open government, more transparency, less of the cloak and dagger stuff. We were sick of all the secrecy, both in Congress and in the Executive branch, and you're supposed to change that. This is how you start?
Senate Democrats, who campaigned on a pledge of more openness in government, will kick off the 110th Congress with a closed meeting of all 100 senators in the Capitol.
Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who will be the majority leader when the new Congress convenes Jan. 4, announced yesterday "a joint caucus meeting" for senators only, to be held that morning in the old Senate chamber, a cozy, seldom-used room.
The Senate's Democratic and Republican caucuses often meet separately and in private for lunches and meetings throughout the congressional session. But meetings of the full Senate that exclude the news media and the public are relatively rare, and most often involve matters of national security or impeachments.
Granted, I'm sure there are several very valid reasons why he might want such a meeting. Perhaps he wants to extend an olive branch to the GOP and promise not to shut them out of all legislative decisions like the Republicans have done to the Democrats for years in exchange for a recognition that the Dem agenda will have to be dealt with first. There are other non-legislative possibilities. But that would require us to trust you, now wouldn't it? You're not even seated as the majority yet. Do you really think you've already earned our trust?
Capt. Ed makes a couple of shrewd observations.
The Senate belongs to the people of the US and not Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell, who agreed to the session. If they are conducting the nation's business, then the nation has a right to see it for themselves. Even if they are attempting to reach some agreements on committee assignments and floor procedures, those negotiations affect how our nation will run, and the citizens of the US have a right to see those processes developed.
It's interesting that the party that ran on openness and clean government thinks that its first priority is to meet out of sight of the people who elected them. Reid himself talked about the need for sunlight shortly after winning the majority, ironically on Face The Nation. He said it meant "finding out what government is doing."
Now I'll grant you... hearing a Republican supporter of the former majority saying something like this is a bit of a pot and kettle moment. In fact, this may be one of the early examples of something that the conservative bloggers will have to guard against. People who loudly cheered a lot of the questionable activities (to put it kindly) of the Republican majority are going to need to watch their backs when it comes to criticizing Democrats for any similar behavior once they hold the steering wheel. But that doesn't change the fact that Ed's point is valid. This is no way to start.
The possibilities I mentioned above could readily have been handled through a couple of small, closed door meetings between Reid and GOP leadership, and then disseminated privately to the members. Your first steps will be our first impression, and this one isn't setting my expectations very high. Get to work Harry, and do it in the open. You made us a lot of promises and we gave you a chance. Don't blow it.