In a move underscoring House Republicans’ plans for transparency in the new Congress, House Rules ranking member David Dreier on Friday asked that cameras be installed in the committee’s hearing room.
In a letter to House Chief Administrative Officer Dan Strodel, the California Republican urged the CAO to immediately begin installing cameras.
Dreier complained that his is the only committee that can’t broadcast video of its proceedings, other than the Intelligence and ethics committees, which for the most part conduct their hearings privately.
“My Republican Rules Committee colleagues and I have repeatedly requested that the majority undertake the installation of cameras in the Rules Committee hearing room to the end that the committee begin webcasting its proceedings,” Dreier wrote. “The Republican Members feel strongly that the American people should have the ability to watch the committee in action.”
The California Republican is poised in the next session to resume chairmanship of the committee he led from 1999 to 2007, after Republicans won the majority Tuesday. When he was chairman, Dreier beefed up the room’s sound system and installed cables to connect cameras.
Dreier called for installing cameras during a March hearing, just before heated committee debates on health care legislation were set to begin. The committee was tasked with setting rules for debate on the bill.
“It just creates a venue for the American people to see what goes on in this room,” he said at the time. “And frankly, from what I heard from a lot of people, and what my colleagues and I have seen, I know there’s a lot of concern about what may be coming forward here.”
In October 2009, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who is not on the committee, introduced a resolution calling for cameras in the hearing room. Dreier and his three Republican Rules colleagues, Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Pete Sessions (Texas) and Virginia Foxx (N.C.), were among the bill’s 61 co-sponsors.
To both requests, however, Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) retorted that it would be a waste of money, given that C-SPAN is allowed to film in the room anytime.
“We love having TV cameras at our meetings and always invite coverage,” Slaughter spokesman Vince Morris said.
In the next Congress, though, Dreier said that will not be enough. He asked that Strodel not only start planning for a permanent camera installation but find a temporary solution for streaming video on the first day of the 112th Congress.
“The next Congress will conduct its business differently than any one before it,” Dreier said in a press release. “Genuine openness and transparency at the Rules Committee will be an important start.”
The CAO’s office is soliciting bids to upgrade the audio-video equipment in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
A Strodel spokesman did not immediately return requests for comment.