The PJ Tatler

The Media Objects to Senate's Secret Defense Bill Markup

The Senate Armed Services Committee will keep the defense authorization (NDAA) markups secret, despite members of the Capitol Hill press corp asking them to open the process to the public.

John McCain (R-AZ) is chairman of the Armed Services Committee said the committee members have voted to keep the process secret. “We voted and that was the decision of the committee,” Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., said Monday evening. “I asked the committee what their views were and they decided that’s what they wanted.”

The Senate markup has traditionally been kept from the public because some of the material under discussion is classified. The senators would have to switch in and out of a classified session if the process was open, so they say.

The press however, is having none of it. “The process of making decisions should itself be visible to the American people in real time — as it is in most other corners of Congress,” Kathleen Hunter of Bloomberg, the chairwoman of the Standing Committee of Correspondents for the Senate Daily Press Gallery, wrote in a May 6 letter to McCain.

The House of Representatives Armed Services Committee has an open session on their markups.

“The House Armed Services Committee openly marks up the companion to the Senate bill,” wrote Hunter. “In that chamber, the process is smooth on the rare occasions when the committee does decide to close a markup to discuss classified data.”

One senator is happy the media is pushing to open the process to the public. “I think it’s great they sent it,” Sen. Claire McCaskill said of the press gallery’s letter. The Missouri Democrat is a proponent of opening up the markup. “I wish that more of my colleagues would see the value in us opening it,” she said.

The full NDAA bill will dominate this week in the Senate  and the House with some final details making it to the public by the end of this week.