Casting a vote against the compromise bill that created a “supercommittee” on budget cuts, U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., indulged in a bit of grandstanding during the debt crisis.
It was clear that most senators would vote for the compromise, so he wasn’t really under pressure to cast a vote that would avoid the default on U.S. government obligations.
But if he voted against the bill, that doesn’t mean Vitter’s call for openness on the new “supercommittee” is sour grapes.
Vitter proposed a bill to require immediate disclosure of campaign donations of $1,000 or more to the 12 members of the House and Senate on the bipartisan panel. Vitter said he wants to know what “special interests are trying to influence the committee.”
The bill is likely to go nowhere, for good-enough reasons: Most campaign contributions, if not reported immediately, are still reported quickly. Unlike in state law, corporations can’t contribute to federal candidates. Contributions also are capped below limits in Louisiana’s law, as well.
The members of the supercommittee probably already have received contributions from most people who share the members’ particular political persuasions. It’s very unlikely that there will be any flood of thousands of individual donations of $1,000 or more because a particular member backs an amendment favoring one “special interest” over another.
All that said, the mechanics of the Vitter bill probably are unnecessary, but the larger point he makes is precisely correct.
“We need to see full transparency and accountability because these committee members will be making huge decisions with a lot on the line,” Vitter said.
The committee doesn’t make final decisions, but its proposals can be fast-tracked to votes by Congress without amendment, and that’s a significant power.
As Vitter says, the level of transparency in the debate will be useful to average citizens watching the process. And what purpose does any secrecy serve at this point? The endless back-and-forth in the debt-ceiling debate provided people with broad outlines of the options pushed by both parties in Congress and by the president.
When the supercommittee meets, let’s hear them talk it out in the open.