Earlier today, I gently mocked Barney Frank's proposal to televise the FinReg conference committee meetings. My argument: given that the real negotiations will still take place behind closed doors, TV cameras will probably do more to boost partisanship than transparency:
Democrats will seize on the TV time to declare that any Republican who refuses to vote for the bill—which is what all of the as-yet-unnamed conferees are expected to do—is an enemy of Main Street. Republicans, meanwhile, will use the cameras to "box Democrats into a corner, calling for a level of transparency that neither party has ever practiced and hitting them when they fail to live up to it," as Politico reports.
I tried my best to dissuade Congress, but alas, they don't seem to care what I think. According to HuffPost, both Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have now signed on to Frank's plan:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, through a spokesperson, tells HuffPost Hill she "definitely" will push to televise and webcast talks between House and Senate conferees ... "This is something that he would support," Jim Manley, senior communications adviser to Harry Reid, told HuffPost Hill.
Which means that C-Span fans are finally going to get what they want: a day or two of pure political theater. HuffPost Hill seems particularly jazzed, writing that the news represents "a blow to Wall Street lobbyists, who work much more effectively in the dark."
They should probably keep two things in mind, though, lest they lose control of their expectations. First, even Frank admits "the negotiations will go on in private" because "that's where human beings work"—lobbyists and all. And second, the Republicans are just as excited as the Democrats. Why? As Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown put it earlier today, GOP leaders "embraced ... Frank's C-Span pledge because it gives them one more public platform to press their vision of reform—and score points ... [by] calling for a level of transparency that neither party has ever practiced ... [and then] hitting [Democrats] when they fail to live up to it."
The truth is, both parties see the C-SPAN charade as a PR opportunity, and nothing more. Democrats seem to believe (as HuffPost Hill argues) that "the more attention paid to the negotiations ... the harder it'll be to weaken the bill." But it's just as likely that the added attention will provide Republicans with a new opportunity to sour the public on the legislation.
So, sure, the new regulations will still pass. The public will just be more divided over the issue than ever before. If that's what this kind of (faux) transparency gets us, I'm guessing that we'd be better off without it.