From the Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.:
I was excited to be covering the Oct. 13 meeting of the Senate Finance Committee. It was a historic occasion — the fifth and final committee of jurisdiction was about to pass a bill that could result in the first serious health reform in decades.
Having been to a few hearings before, I knew what to expect: the senators and their staffs, a few of us media types at tables on the edges of the room, and members of the public in rows of chairs.
But when I came into the hearing room an hour before the hearing began, what I saw instead was the dais where the senators sit, a table for witnesses, a few rows of chairs for staff members, and lots of room for members of the media — four long tables with eight or so chairs on each side of each table, dominating the back half of the room. Then, at the very back, there were three rows of chairs for the public.
It seemed as if the public was strictly an afterthought at this hearing. Perhaps the senators thought everyone was at home watching on C-SPAN, or maybe they thought it was enough for the public to get their news filtered through the media. But something seems amiss when the public, which elected these senators and put them into office, is relegated to the cheap seats at an event that affects the lives of every citizen in this country.
–Joyce Frieden (Twitter @joycefr)