Appropriations Committee ignores Congress's mandate to webcast hearings

Nicko from the Sunlight Foundation sez, "Despite significant strides towards improving public access to legislative proceedings, nearly a quarter of House hearings cannot be watched online despite recently instituted House rules -- with the Appropriations Committee as the biggest offender, with 70 percent of its hearings unavailable on the Internet. The Appropriations Committee is at the heart of today's debate about the budget and is responsible for writing the chamber's spending bills."

The Sunlight Foundation tracked 200 House hearings over 20 days to determine whether they were webcast live, plus 407 hearings from January 17 to April 2 to determine whether video from the proceedings were archived online. Twenty-five percent (49 of 200) of the hearings were not live-streamed, and 22 percent (91 of 407) were not archived on committee websites...

With 70 percent of its hearings offline, the Appropriations Committee's practice appears to diverge from the House's requirement of publishing video online to "the maximum extent practicable." Nearly all other committees manage to put their proceedings online. Appropriators have a large hearing room that has cameras pre-installed. Were the committee to choose to meet in the Capitol building, it could request coverage from the House Recording Studio or meet in one of the new hearing rooms in the Capitol Visitor's Center.

Committees Make Leap to Online Video, but Approps Doesn’t Get the Picture



  1. Making a law is just writing something down, and changes nothing unless sentient beings independently decide to act according to the law.  If the social contract is breaking down, fewer people will decide to respect the law.  The rich and powerful are usually the first to discard the wishes and needs of their fellows.

  2. Social contracts and issues of “respect for the law” are red herrings here. When a group of people imbue their government with legislative, executive, and judicial powers, what they’re saying is, “we don’t believe that the social contract by itself will let our society excel or let its members live in peace; instead, we want a set of defined rules, a set of approved punishments for violating them, and a group of people to enforce those rules.” What’s going on here is that our executive branch is not actually in the business of fairly enforcing our laws. This is just another file on the mountain of evidence that says that our executive branch (from cops to the White House) is either as corrupt or as self-serving or as simply bad at doing their job as the legislature is.  Yes, clearly, our legislators themselves seem to be a pack of non-law-abiding nogoodniks, but the reason that our government has different branches, in theory, is that we as a nation assume that no one participating in this society can be relied upon to simply respect our “social contract.” So, I have to disagree: this isn’t about people being bad or the social contract breaking down; this is about our government being bad and breaking down, and that’s a lot scarier.

    1. We’ll have to disagree, then.  As I see it, our nation’s founders trusted in the willingness of the majority to abide by a set of mutually agreed upon rules.

      I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion. 
      — Thomas Jefferson

  3. Lawmakers usually exempt themselves from laws which they find inconvenient.  If you lie to a Congressperson, you can be hauled in for perjury, but they can tell boldfaced lies about their political opponents.  They exempt themselves from telemarketing no-call lists and from insider trading legislation, and don’t expect them to vote down THEIR taxpayer-funded healthcare.

    Even if they are technically bound by a law, that does not mean that it applies to them.

    Being rank has its privileges.

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