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Freshmen Gripe Over Process but Don’t Block Debt Deal

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Sen. Mike Lee said Monday that he has been frustrated by the process used to craft the deal on the debt limit because only a handful of leaders behind closed doors negotiated the agreement, which did not get a public airing in committee nor a robust amendment debate on the Senate floor.

Less than 48 hours to debate perhaps the most far-reaching budget bill in a generation is not what freshman Republican Senators had in mind when they ran for office in 2010.

With a complicated, multifaceted deal to raise the debt ceiling consummated Sunday night and fast-moving Senate consideration of the agreement, Republican Senators unhappy with the substance of the compromise were additionally jolted by negotiations that shunned the public committee and floor debate process in favor of last-minute brinksmanship and horse-trading among just a handful of players.

“We actually do have a special committee set up here — it’s called Congress, it’s called the Senate,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said in a backhanded swipe at a component of the deal that calls for Congress to create a new joint deficit reduction committee. “We should have used that process properly, out in the open, where the American people can see what’s happening as opposed to all of a sudden having a solution that’s going to be dumped in our laps. And we’re going to have to decide here very quickly, without having full debate, and that’s just a real shame. That is not the way this place should work.”

Throughout 2009 and 2010, Republicans perpetually grumbled at the cloaked nature of private negotiations on major legislation, particularly President Barack Obama’s health care law, and complained about last-minute floor debates. They accused Democrats of scheduling quick votes within hours of a bill becoming available. House Republicans, promising more transparency when they took over the chamber in January, instituted a rule requiring legislation be available for review for 72 hours before holding a vote.

But the House GOP leadership was forced to make an exception to that rule this week to ensure that the debt ceiling legislation could clear Congress in time to meet today’s Treasury deadline. The Senate had slightly more time to consider the bill, but it fell short of the open process many freshman Republicans ran on last year when they promised tea party supporters that they would help usher in a new era of transparent government.

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