I have argued for a while that Repubicans need to pick up the mantle of transparency. It is useful tactically and strategically. On the tactical level, the guys in leadership always play "hide the ball with what they are doing". This gives Republicans a morally secure high-ground to attack whatever the Democrats do. Strategically, it gives us an issue that can both rally our base and makes good sense to independents and many Democrats.
On Friday, House Republican Leader John Boehner issued a statement on transparency. The key passage:
It’s just common sense: Americans should be allowed to read the text of major bills before Congress votes on them. Previous Congresses, including Republican ones, failed to live up to this standard. But never before has the failure been as blatant as it has been in the past nine months under Speaker Pelosi. Things have to change.
There are two key parts to this. First, he grabbed the policy issue and framed it in the adult and serious way "Americans" (not "Members of Congress", which seems like only a populist argument, although some in the media have grabbed the straw man to give the Democrats aircover) should know what Congress is doing so that we can hold them accountable.
The second part is, perhaps, more important. John Boehner has now explicitly rejected the way that he ran the House, said "we have learned", and established a new line in the sand. Furthermore, one of the reforms that he advocates, in this case, a waiting period before legislation can be acted on, actually may impact many of the wasteful spending concerns that actually helped drive him out of office.
What is so fascinating is the rejection by Senate Democrats and the silence of lefty advocacy groups other than the Sunlight Foundation. In an effort to get a public copy of the healthcare bill before a vote, John Kerry said:
"This is fundamentally a delay tactic," the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate said. "I mean, let’s be honest about it. The legislative language, everybody knows, is relatively arcane, legalistic, and most people don’t read the legislative language."
That’s right. But people who are interested do. People who are experts or people being impacted do, or they hire people to.
And this gets to the final point. Where is the press? Huffington Post is being sent around by Demcorats, because they are giving cover to Democrats. But they aren’t really press. But where is the Fourth Estate demanding that they have the information to tell the American people what the debate is about.
You would think that John Boehner repudiating how Republicans ran the House would be worthy of news.
You would think that John Kerry giving cover to the Senate acting without even having legislation (I’m not talking about reading the bill here …) would be newsworthy.
Crickets outside of Fox and the Washington Times.