Dear Senators Reid and McConnell:
On behalf of the Society of Professional Journalists, one of the nation’s oldest and largest journalism-advocacy organizations, I am expressing profound dismay about the Senate’s proposed “bipartisan caucus” that is aimed at breaking Senate gridlock and speeding business.
The need for closed-door meetings in cases where the Senate must discuss sensitive business, such as impeachments or matters of national security, is understandable. But blocking public access to meetings of any other nature is unacceptable.
If the Senate truly wishes to eradicate gridlock, there are plenty of other ways to start than by closing meetings. Why prohibit the public from seeing the business conducted in its name? Why kick out the news media? If anything, lawmakers need to become more transparent. A bipartisan effort to help the American people see more of what goes on, not less, might help weed out some of the Senate’s chief contributors to “gridlock.”
Secret meetings, no matter how well-intentioned, only will fuel suspicion that lawmakers consider themselves above public accountability -- and that special interests, not the will of the people, dictate law and public policy.
Please re-consider this deeply flawed plan to hold a closed Senate meeting on Jan. 4, and by all means reject any other closed-door, bipartisan caucuses that may be proposed. The American people deserve better.
President, Society of Professional Journalists