The American people are about to get a glimpse of the negotiations in which top Democratic and Republican lawmakers will merge their two financial reform bills into a final product to send to President Obama. But not the full picture. C-SPAN will only be televising tomorrow's opening day of the financial reform conference. The rest of the process will be available via a grainy, unpredictable webcast on the House financial services committee's website.
Enter Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the financial services committee. Frank, who'll be leading the conference process, wants C-SPAN to be in the room as much as possible, at all the public sessions and conference committee votes. Today, on the eve of the conference's opening, Frank wrote a letter to C-SPAN chairman Brian Lamb urging him "to provide the necessary resources to ensure that the American people are able to watch the public portions and the voting of the Conference Committee."
Democrats see C-SPAN's presence as a chance to expose those shilling for Wall Street and other financial players. The spotlight also gives lawmakers the chance to rail against colleagues who try to obstruct the process or blunt tough new reforms. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), for instance, took every chance he could get during the Senate's financial reform debate to bash GOPers as "making love to Wall Street" and paint their obstructionist tactics as "anti-American." If Democrats grow equally exasperated with GOPers during conference, watch for similar kinds of criticisms.
Full broadcasting of the conference process would also bolster Obama's claim that he wants full transparency for all his big legislative battles. As many remember, the president promised that the health care debate would be entirely out in the open and then reneged on that promise, for which he was strongly criticized. Making sure the television cameras are at every public session and vote for financial reform could restore some faith in Obama's transparency pledge.
Here's Barney Frank's full letter to CSPAN's Brian Lamb:
June 8, 2010
Dear Mr. Lamb,
Thank you for committing the necessary resources to provide gavel-to-gavel coverage of the opening day of the historic House-Senate Conference on the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. As we move forward, I urge you to provide the necessary resources to ensure that the American people are able to watch the public portions and the voting of the Conference Committee. I believe it is vital that after the financial crisis of 2008, the American people are able to view the public proceedings. I thank you for your consideration of my request.