“As Congress considers some of the most pivotal policy of our time, the American people deserve full transparency in all legislative proceedings, particularly those of the powerful Rules Committee,” Congressman Dent said. “There has been unprecedented civic engagement since the 2008 election. Americans understand the importance of the policy that Congress is considering and they are watching the process closely. It is unacceptable that they are shut out of the Rules Committee’s critical proceedings. In the past year, we have seen 300-page amendments offered to the Rules Committee in the middle of the night and key policy proposals rejected on a straight party-line vote without thorough consideration. Sunlight will be a powerful disinfectant against these practices.”
According to a spokesperson for Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter, cameras are always welcome. "We invite TV cameras to every single meeting we have. We can't dictate what the press decides to cover but cameras are always welcome at our meetings. Like all Americans, we love C-SPAN. And it's worth noting that Rules is far more open under us than it ever was under Republicans. We meet earlier, post more information online and we do it faster than ever before so the public knows exactly what happens at each of our meetings."
But the Rules Committee hearing room is among the smallest on Capitol Hill and one of the last without cameras to record the work of the committee. Congressman Dent’s resolution would call for installation of cameras during the next long district work period, and facilitation of live audio and video webcasting of all proceedings. The expense would be minimal since most of the architectural work required to install cameras was completed during the last renovation of the hearing room.
Though not a member of the Rules Committee, Congressman Dent has had significant experience with the silent influence this Committee can wield. He has gone to the Rules Committee on numerous occasions to offer substantive amendments. For instance, he offered an amendment during consideration of the major FY2009 Appropriations bill to hold spending at an inflationary increase, and in deliberations on the TARP legislation he offered an amendment to cap funding at $250 billion and require another vote of authorization before allocating additional money. Both amendments were rejected by the Committee and consequently, not allowed to be considered by the full House.
“This committee can prevent the opportunity for serious debate, but the American people don’t have the opportunity to hear its members explain their own actions,” Congressman Dent said. “One thing I hear consistently from my constituents, regardless of their views on policies, is that they feel like Congress is out of touch. More transparency is demanded, and I think that letting the American people in on the important proceedings of the Rules Committee is a logical place to start.”
Congressman Dent’s resolution was introduced Friday with 61 original cosponsors, including four members of the Rules Committee: Ranking Member David Dreier of California, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Florida, Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, and Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina.