Jim Abrams on the Washington Post:
Schoolchildren are taught that a bill finally goes to the president after selected lawmakers meet openly to forge a compromise, and the House and Senate approve their accord.
But in today’s Congress, formal conference meetings are rare, the minority party is usually shut out and the public has little or no access to the process.
That trend has been on display this month as Democrats and the White House engage in closed-door talks on how the government is going to change the delivery of health care that have effectively excluded the public and the media.
Dating back to 1789, the House and Senate have dealt with differences in bills by convening conference committees to thrash out a unified approach that the chambers can pass and send to the president. For the past two decades at least some of these bicameral, bipartisan meetings have been open to C-SPAN cameras.
But in those same two decades, leaders from both parties have held fewer and fewer conference meetings, or reduced their significance to photo ops.
In the 93rd Congress of 1973–75, Congress filed 190 conference reports, the end product of formal House-Senate negotiations. In the session of 2005–07, the last time Republicans controlled both chambers, that number had fallen to 28. Last year, the first year of the current Congressional session, there were only 11 conference reports.
Read More: Washington Post
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