By Mike Lillis - 09/07/11 07:23 PM EDT
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday designed to heighten the transparency surrounding the deficit-slashing supercommittee.
Reps. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio), Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) and Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) say the high-stakes nature of the panel's task demands assurances that the recommendations aren't unduly influenced by lobbyists and special interests.
"Members of this committee are being granted extraordinary authority to handle more than a trillion dollars in taxpayer funds and there will no doubt be intense pressure from all sides to try and influence the process and outcome," Loebsack said in a statement. "For there to be any amount of confidence in the decisions made by this committee, Congress has to ensure transparency exists at all levels of their dealings and deliberations."
Renacci said the transparency will "limit outside influence, allow for more input from a greater number of sources and lead to a better final product for the taxpayer."
The 12-member supercommittee is required to identify at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade or automatic, across-the-board cuts kick in. The panel's deadline is Nov. 23.
The House transparency proposal would require supercommittee members and staffers to disclose all meetings with lobbyists and other influence peddlers on a publicly accessible website within 48 hours. They would also be required to reveal any financial contributions from special interests.
In addition, the proposal would mandate that all committee hearings be streamed live on the website, while also requiring the panel to post the legislative language of their recommendations at least 72 hours before either chamber votes on them.
"The American people deserve to see exactly who is influencing the process,” Quigley said.
The bill has won the endorsement of the Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog group.
"Since this committee has been granted enormous power to determine the future of our economy," Sunlight's Executive Director Ellen Miller said in a statement, "it’s critical all Americans have the ability to track online in real time the lobbying, activities and every dollar of campaign contributions to the committee’s members."
The supercommittee is scheduled to meet for the first time Thursday.