There may not be much that Speaker John Boehner and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi can agree on, but we seem to have found one topic where they’ve reached a bipartisan consensus. Neither of them wants C-SPAN installing extra robotic cameras in the chamber to catch the reactions and activities of the various members while someone is speaking at the podium.
Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) this week rejected the cable network’s latest appeal to put cameras in the House chamber. C-SPAN wants the freedom to pan away from speakers to capture conversations between members and lawmakers’ reactions to things said during debate.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), Mr. Boehner’s predecessor as speaker, rejected similar appeals.
“Consistent with the precedent set by former speakers, I believe the American people – and the dignity and decorum of the United States House of Representatives – are best served by the current system of televised proceedings provided by the House Recording Studio,” Mr. Boehner wrote C-SPAN Chief Executive Brian Lamb in a letter sent Thursday.
This is one of those questions that I’ve been conflicted about in the past. My initial gut reaction to any such question is to say that “more access is better” and sunshine is the best disinfectant for what ails the government. But I’m not sure precisely what such a move would gain for the voters in any meaningful way, and I can also see why the members wouldn’t be wild about it.
First of all, if the House is managing to function as designed, there wouldn’t be a lot to see from the assembled members. There would be one member speaking at the podium with the rest listening attentively and waiting their turn to speak. Obviously that rarely happens, but the point is that the House has rules of order and operation for a reason and the recognized speaker should have the floor and be allowed to deliver their remarks.
This can change, of course, particularly when some hot tempered person decides to go off on a tangent. (Can you say Anthony Weiner?) But that’s not supposed to be the norm. Further, even if there were cameras pointed out at the members, we probably wouldn’t get to actually hear any of the whispers and chatter going on unless the network plans on installing more than 400 continuously operating microphones.
What we probably would catch on film is precisely the type of things the members don’t want to see on the nightly news. House members might be caught grimacing at the remarks being made, nodding off in their seats, ignoring the speaker to whisper to aides, or playing Angry Birds or looking at the latest video from LOLcatz. Sure, there’s a certain amusement value to that for bored politics junkies, but do we really want that to become the story rather than the official business being conducted on the floor?
As I said, I’m rather conflicted on it. Let’s get your opinions on it. Take the poll!