Senate GOP calls for supercommittee meetings to be made public

A group of Senate Republicans are demanding the supercommittee tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in budget savings make all its deliberations public.

A group led by freshman Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) want the 12-member bipartisan panel to allow the press and public to attend all of its meetings and provide streaming video or audio of each moment of its deliberation.

The supercommittee met for the first time Thursday and voted to allow some private meetings.

It adopted a rules package that allows it to hold a secret meeting if a majority of seven members agree to do so.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), co-chairman of the panel, acknowledged that “there will be some discussions among members that will not be public,” but assured that all votes will be public.

That’s unlikely to satisfy Republicans demanding full public meetings.

GOP Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), David Vitter (La.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and John Boozman (Ark.) have signed on to legislation sponsored by Heller that would require the panel to make all its meetings public.

“It would require all meetings be posted prior to the meeting; it would allow public access to the meetings themselves; and the third thing would be a live stream, a broadcast stream of the meetings,” Heller said of his legislation.

Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) has sponsored a companion bill in the House.

Heller said he and Buchanan have sent letters to the co-chairmen of the supercommittee, Hensarling and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), asking them to take a look at the transparency legislation.

“We’ve received no response,” Heller said.

Buchanan said he hopes to press his proposal later Thursday with Hensarling and the other two House GOP members of the supercommittee, Michigan Reps. Dave Camp and Fred Upton.

“I’m going to be talking to all of them and it will be interesting to hear what they have to say,” Buchanan said. “This needs to be an open and transparent process to the American people.”

The committee held its first bipartisan organizational meeting Thursday to discuss its rules of procedure.

The group of Senate Republicans are worried they will have only a few hours to review the deficit-reduction package assembled by the supercommittee before having to vote on it.

Heller told reporters Thursday: “We are opposed to inside baseball, and that’s what we’re seeing with this supercommittee.

“I have traveled around the state of Nevada, and in the state of Nevada they do not like the super-secret committee, they do not trust the super-secret committee and I believe we could go a long way in this country to retaining trust back in this process if the committee in its rules adopted these open rules so the public has access.”

Some Democrats also are leery of the supercommittee’s powers and have expressed their concerns to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Reid on Wednesday admitted to having doubts about proposing the creation of the supercommittee in the first place.

“I was making scores of phone calls, talking to senators — Democratic senators — about this supercommittee,” Reid told reporters. “So [after] the first week or so of that, I was not sure it was a good idea to do the supercommittee, but I’ve done it.”

But Reid quickly added that he felt reassured after selecting Murray, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to sit on the panel.