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House Republicans Call for Greater Transparency

9:05 AM, Nov 20, 2009 • By GARY ANDRES
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Congress as an institution will never win any popularity sweepstakes. More than any other branch of government, it's a forum for open, raucous, and partisan debate. And as a result, it also exposes the lack of consensus on many public policy questions.

Yet as this recent Gallup poll finds, public trust in Congress is particularly anemic this year, dropping to the lowest point since these surveys have been conducted.

One of the critiques the public hears most about Congress (at least the House) is its lack of transparency and lack of fairness to the minority. Republicans regularly complain that they are precluded from offering amendments, that the Democrats deliberate in secret, and that lawmakers rarely have the time to read mountainous bills rushed to the floor.

House Republicans, seeking to address some of these issues and improve the congressional transparency, announced a new initiative yesterday:

House Republicans today launched a new effort to change the way Congress works, calling on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to schedule an immediate vote on five common-sense reforms that will bring greater transparency to the legislative process and make Congress more open and accountable to the people it serves. The House GOP congressional transparency initiative includes "read the bill" reform that would ensure all bills are posted online at least 72 hours before coming to a vote, a ban on "phantom amendments" being added to bills in secret after they pass committee, a resolution requiring the upcoming House-Senate health care negotiations to be open to the public, and other critical reforms.

Don't expect Speaker Nancy Pelosi to do anything with this new plan. Voters may have to wait until she's back in the minority to see her show any interest. But if her party's numbers continue to drop, and trust in Congress doesn't rebound, that could happen sooner than you think.