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Opinion: Senate needs more transparency, less politics

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When I arrived in Congress, I realized that many of the Senate’s traditions are things America could be proud of, but there are also some rules and traditions that are just plain bad government. Just because “that’s the way we do things” is no excuse for secrets, back-room deals and political games. We’ve spent the last four years trying to clean up federal contracting practices and improving transparency and oversight for Congress and the rest of the federal government. There’s no better time than the start of a new Congress to renew our efforts to clean up the way we do business here. As we start the year, we’ve already made some important progress.

First, I, along with my colleague John McCain, recently introduced legislation to stop members of Congress from getting an automatic pay raise. That’s right, members of Congress currently receive a pay raise automatically every year, unless someone fights to stop them like I have for the last two years. At a time when too many Americans across the country are out of work and scraping just to get by, Congress should not be using tax dollars to give themselves a raise – a luxury everyday Missourians most definitely do not have.

There’s been a lot of talk in Washington about cutting back. We’re going to have to start making some hard decisions. I think Missourians will agree that Congress’ automatic pay raise should be the first item on the chopping block. The past two years, I co-sponsored bills that passed by Congress to eliminate the pay raise for 2010 and 2011, but those bills did not permanently remove the automatic pay raise. I believe we must go further – this practice must be stopped permanently, not just one year at a time.

But ending the pay raise is just part of my larger goal of applying common sense Missouri solutions to Washington’s problems. After a year of fighting it, the Senate finally passed the Secret Holds Elimination Resolution, as part of setting rules for the new Congress. This means that senators will no longer be able to block legislation or nominees anonymously.
Missouri’s own President Harry S Truman once said that “secrecy and a free, democratic government don’t mix.” For too long the Senate has been dominated by secrecy and backroom deals, leaving the American people often in the dark about what’s really going on around here.

Under the new rules, any senator who wants to block a nominee or bill will now have to say who they are after they object to passage. Senators can still hold up a bill if they object to it, but now we will know who they are and allow them to be held accountable if Americans disagree with their actions.

It’s rarely easy to change long-standing rules and practices, but I’m committed to making the Senate more transparent and accountable to you, my bosses in Missouri. It’s your government and you deserve better. Keep an eye out for more in the future.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and her staff can be reached at (417) 868-8745 or at www.mccaskill.senate.gov.[[In-content Ad]]

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