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Rep. Darrell Issa Won’t Push for Deficit Panel Transparency

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Darrell Issa, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has declined to join efforts to shine sunlight on private talks among deficit panel members.

"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."

If Issa thinks the transparency bill is going nowhere, he might be right. The calls have fallen on bipartisan deaf ears among leadership and at the super committee, whose co-chairman, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, said the committee is sufficiently transparent as is.

"We adhere to the same rules as any other standing committee of the United States Congress, and we adhere to those transparency standards," the Texas Republican said. "Two or more Members of any committee can meet and discuss. But all actions, all hearings, are going to take place in the public, and any proposal that we come out with will be vetted by the public."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who also sits on the deficit panel, agreed, saying it's best for meetings to take place out of the public eye.

"In this polarized environment, it's important for [there to be] some opportunity for Members to have an exchange of views," the Maryland Democrat said. "If we get to the point where we're marking something up, that will obviously be in public."

Nonetheless, Issa's staunch defense of this privacy has disappointed transparency advocates at the Sunlight Foundation, the group most involved with the dealings of the Transparency Caucus. The foundation has similarly recommended more deficit panel transparency.

"We miss Congressman Issa's voice here," said Gabriela Schneider, spokeswoman for the foundation. "He has repeatedly spoken out strongly about the need for transparency in the work of government. We urge him to review our recommendations."

From his perch as chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa has repeatedly slammed the White House for being too secretive and has been a vocal advocate for transparency websites such as Data.gov and USASpending.gov.

He is the lead sponsor of a bill that would create an independent executive branch agency to track and report federal spending publicly.

But the Oversight and Government Reform Committee has no jurisdiction over the deficit panel, Issa said.

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