Too much of the negotiations over the fiscal cliff — automatic spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to begin Jan. 1 — are taking place in private, says Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.
“The United States is on an unsustainable spending and debt course,” he writes in The Wall Street Journal
. “Without reform, it will lead to economic disaster. Yet a fundamental alteration in U.S. policy won't occur until the American people understand the depth of the danger and the scale of change required.”
And that requires openness, rather than the private meetings that have been taking place Sessions says. “Such change can begin only with extensive, messy and even contentious legislative work carried on for months in the open light of day.”
Washington has come to view the idea of a small group of negotiators getting together in secret to produce a grand bargain as standard operating procedure, he says. “This is a siren song.”
Small secret groups have tried to produce budget agreements over the last three years with little success, Sessions says. “One wise observer has said that the Senate now operates like the Russian Duma, where officials meet behind closed doors, put out the word, and the overwhelming votes materialize.”
The Senate must return to its “historic role as the national institution where the great challenges of our time are debated, clarified and ultimately resolved in public view,” Sessions writes. “Unfortunately, Majority Leader Harry Reid has executed a brilliant partisan strategy of protecting his members from public accountability by avoiding the public workings of the legislative process.”
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