Monday, August 28, 2006

It's a secret

We Catholics are accustomed to some secrecy. After all, our Pope is elected in secret, and our bishops meet in secret. However, as American citizens, we do not need such secrecy from our elected representatives. An editorial in the Albany Times Union gives an example of what we mean:
According to a report by Rebecca Carr of Cox News Service, legislation that would have created an easy to navigate database tracking about $2.5 trillion of government spending -- contracts, grants, insurance, loans and financial assistance -- was headed for almost certain passage. The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., was unanimously approved by a voice vote of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last month. Its supporters included Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Why, then, isn't it that much closer to law by now?

So begins a story of the underhanded ways of Washington. Who's the rogue senator who resorted to secrecy to stop an open government bill?

To follow this plot requires an understanding of the arcane ways of the Senate. It's possible to use subterfuge to defeat, or at least derail, legislation. All it requires is for a senator to go to the leader of his or her party and ask that the bill not be brought up for a vote. That means, in this case, that either Mr. Frist or Mr. Reid stopped a bill they had ostensibly supported.

The same Senate rules prohibit those party leaders from disclosing which of them did this dirty deed, and at which senator's behest. It's treated like classified information.

It's troubling enough that Congress functions like this. All the worse is that this is such an important bill that serves the pubic interest. That some would stoop to such depths in opposition to government transparency can only suggests that the awarding of the government contracts and grants the database would track is even more corrupt than anyone had suspected.

The entire editorial is here. Albany Catholic suggests that each of us contact our congressional representatives to see what they are doing to end this system of deception. Tell them we want the rules changed so that one person cannot stop legislation that apparently has wide-spread support. If they won’t do that, at least let them make public the name of the individual(s) who are preventing a vote on important bi-partisan legislation.