Democratic leaders in Congress have apparently shunned a request from C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb to open up the health care negotiations process to their cameras and therefore to the American people. Emerging from yet another closed door meeting on health care, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) denied at a press conference that Democrats had in any way been secretive in their negotiations, asserting that they have been perfectly transparent throughout the legislative process.
“There has never been a more open process for any legislation,” Pelosi actually said with a straight face.
In December, the Republican Study Committee (RSC) compiled a full laundry list of the secretive, backroom payoffs included in the Senate bill solely to garner votes.
“We’d wonder what it is they are hiding behind closed doors, but we already know — more mandates, taxes and bribes,” RSC Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (R-Ga.) told HUMAN EVENTS. “The question now is how many Democrats are getting a deal and which special interests will get their favored provisions slipped in. The fact is the abuse of process taking place is outrageous, and Americans will not stand for this sleazy backroom dealing.”
It is unlikely there would be time to stage negotiations for the C-SPAN cameras as well as conduct the actual closed-door horse trading and still meet Obama’s new arbitrary deadline for passage before his State of the Union address. No date has yet been set for his speech, but it is expected by the end of January.
Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House Republican leader, backed the C-SPAN request, enthusiastically responding to Lamb’s request letter to congressional leaders.
“As House Republican Leader, I can confidently state that all House Republicans strongly endorse your proposal and stand ready to work with you to make it a reality,” Boehner wrote in the letter. “Hard-working families won’t stand for having the future of their health care decided behind closed doors. These secret deliberations are a breeding ground for more of the kickbacks, shady deals and special-interest provisions that have become business as usual in Washington. Too much is at stake to have a final bill built on payoffs and pork-barrel spending.”
Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Chairman of the House Republican Conference, strongly supported the C-SPAN request.
“More than a year ago, President Obama promised voters that health care negotiations would be televised,” Pence said in a statement. “In a mad rush to get a health care bill to the president’s desk, that promise has been broken time and time again. The recent request by C-SPAN provides the president one last chance to make good on his promise for openness in the health care debate. The American people deserve a seat at the table. I call on the president, and the Democrat leadership, to take health care reform out of the smoke-filled rooms on Capitol Hill and to put it on C-SPAN.”
Pence is referring to the January 31, 2008 statement Obama made during the presidential primary debates against Hillary Clinton.
“That’s what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are, because part of what we have to do is enlist the American people in this process,” Obama said in the debate.
“The American people continue to speak out against the Democrat plan for a government takeover of health care,” Pence continued. “Rather than listening to their concerns, Democrats are once again preparing to meet behind closed doors to finalize their plans for a hostile takeover of one-sixth of the American economy. The American people are tired of backroom deals and big government spending. They have a right to know how Democrats plan to pass this government takeover of health care.”
Yesterday, top Republicans from each of the House committees with jurisdiction over the health care bill sent a letter (pdf) to Pelosi demanding transparency. John Kline, House Education and Labor Committee, Joe Barton, Energy and Commerce Committee, and Dave Camp, Ways and Means Committee urged open and fully bipartisan negotiations on reconciling the House and Senate health care bills to include giving legislators a chance to actually read the new bill and study the cost before voting.
From the letter:
“In addition, we strongly believe the final health care legislation should be posted online for at least 72 hours before it is brought to a vote, and that all Members should have that much time to review scores from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Joint Committee on Taxation. This kind of transparency would help prevent the sweetheart deals so prominent in the Senate bill from being cut behind closed doors at the expense of the American taxpayer. …
“This bill is too important, affects too much of our economy and touches too many lives to be written in secret by a select few Democrats and lobbyists. We ask that you include Republicans in these negotiations, ensure that meetings about the health care bill are televised and open to the press, and provide the American people sufficient time to review the final bill and make their feelings known to their elected officials before it is considered for a final vote on the floor.”
One-sixth of the nation’s economy and your right to control your own health care decisions hang in the balance here folks. Stay engaged.