Obama happy with closed process that produced stimulus

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The White House said Friday that President Obama is “happy” with the process that led to the stimulus bill, which began with congressional Democratic leaders freezing Republicans out of the drafting process and ended with a conference committee that hashed out most of the details behind closed doors.

House lawmakers then had less than 12 hours to read the roughly 1,000 page bill before debate began this morning. (Click here for part a of the bill and here for part b).

Nonetheless, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama is “pleased with the process and the product that has come out.”

Gibbs made the comment after I asked him again today about Obama’s promise during the transition to open up the conference committee process to the public.

“As president, Barack Obama will restore the American people’s trust in their government by making government more open and transparent. Obama will work to reform congressional rules to require all legislative sessions, including committee mark-ups and conference committees, to be conducted in public,” the campaign website said.

I wrote about this Wednesday, after Mr. Gibbs successfully dodged questions on the subject (see all that here).

“Obviously, the president hopes for greater openness and transparency in government, whether it’s the transparency that’s part of this bill or transparency that’s part of conference committees,” Gibbs said, segueing into a discussion of posting bills online at least five days before the president signs them.

That was another promise made by Obama, but the White House now says only “non-emergency legislation” will be posted online in such a manner.

Gibbs said the White House is “struggling with trying to figure out how to do that in a way — when do you do it, how do you do it, what do you put up?”

Gibbs then looped back to the White House line they have now adopted as a catch all when talking about their attempts to promote bipartisanship or practice transparency.

“So I think all this is a work in progress. And as I said, it will take — probably, longer than a few weeks to change how this place works,” he said, referring to Washington.

“I think the president is happy with the product that Democrats and Republicans put together,” Gibbs said, coming back to the issue of the committee’s closed-door meetings.

“The process, not the product,” I said.

“The process and the product,” he said.

- Jon Ward, White House reporter, The Washington Times

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