Rep. Darrell Issa has become one of Congress' biggest champions for transparency and openness in government — except when it comes to the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction.
Known for his aggressive messaging against the Obama administration, the California Republican, who chairs the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and is co-chairman of the Congressional Transparency Caucus, has taken a milder stance when it comes to the deficit panel.
"This committee deliberation is not likely to be open and transparent. You're not going to get that. You know it; I know it," Issa said in an interview. "There comes a point at which even transparency says that the deliberation process that is not part of the body is going to ultimately, at some point, be private."
Issa's opinions directly conflict with those of his Transparency Caucus colleagues, who consider the super committee's deliberations one of the most toxic transparency issues facing Congress.
Rep. Mike Quigley, who co-founded the caucus with Issa in May, is spearheading a bipartisan bill that would, among other things, require deficit panel members to divulge meetings with lobbyists and expedite disclosure of campaign contributions.
"There's no more timely issue, no bigger issue, no committee that'll have more power of the next 50 years, hopefully," the Illinois Democrat said in an interview.
The deficit committee held its last hearing Sept. 22, and since then, its members have had several closed-door meetings to the dismay of a handful of Congressional onlookers and advocacy groups. Rep. Dave Loebsack, a co-sponsor of the transparency bill, said he would like those meetings to be public and streamed live online.
"Not only is Congress at this point very, very unpopular with the people, I have a concern about democracy, about what people think of our institutions," the Iowa Democrat said. "More people are getting angrier with the lack of sunshine in the process."
Rep. Jim Renacci, the bill's third cosponsor, said the trio will follow up with super committee members this week to solicit a response about their concerns.
"We're going to continue to move forward to try to understand what's going on and have transparency," the Ohio Republican said.
But Issa categorically shot down the idea that he would join their cause, saying that "there are some times in which, candidly, you very much know you don't want transparency."
"One has to realize that you lose effectiveness if you ask for everything immediately, including some things that you will never get," Issa said. "I want to make that [process] as transparent as possible, but I also know that you're not going to have every meeting in a person's office — everyone who comes in wanting to request that they get a Purple Heart they were denied — automatically published on the Web."
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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