In 2009, congressional Democrats fashioned their health care legislation out of public view. That enabled them to avoid some public intra-party spats; to hide maybe 60 percent of the cost of the legislation and otherwise game the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring rules; to deny the public enough time to learn about how the legislation would work; and to cram the legislation through the Senate the day before Christmas. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s backroom negotiations are rightfully infamous.
Now comes word that, rather than follow the usual conference procedure that we all learned about as children, House and Senate Democrats will conduct informal negotiations – behind closed doors, all by themselves, with no C-SPAN cameras – in the hope of crafting the bill that can command 218 votes in one chamber and 60 votes in the other.
Let me be clear that Democrats are not violating any rules of which I am aware. But one senses that the object here is not the sort of good government or open government that the Left claims to seek. Rather, the object is power. As my colleague Will Wilkinson writes, “They seem interested primarily in how a temporary majority can do more, faster, now.” And a key tactic is to hide from the public as much of the process as possible.