The ObamaCare drug deal

The House Energy and Commerce Committee issued a press release today, concerning the many back-room deals that helped push ObamaCare upon an unwilling populace:

In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama repeatedly made promises to usher in an era of transparency, “put an end to the game playing,” and broadcast health care negotiations on C-SPAN. However, in 2009, a series of conflicting media accounts documented efforts by the authors of the health care law to make an agreement or series of agreements with health care industry stakeholders to squelch opposition and generate support for the legislation. These meetings and negotiations with various outside interest groups were never made public, and many members of Congress – from both parties – were not a part of those negotiations.

House Energy and Commerce began looking into these little “deals” back in February 2011.  Today’s release highlights a secret deal between the White House and PhRMA, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of America. 

It was widely known that PhRMA was brought on board to support ObamaCare, but it has always been portrayed as an understanding reached between pharmaceutical industry lobbyists and the Senate Finance Committee.  The extent of the White House’s involvement was kept under wraps, but according to the House committee’s new briefing memo, it appears to have included efforts from then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel and Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina. 

Messina eventually grew angry that PhRMA CEO Billy Tauzin was reneging on their end of the agreement, because he sent an email to the association’s top lobbyist that said, “What the hell?  This wasn’t part of our deal.”  They must have ironed out their differences, because two months later ObamaCare got through Congress, and the rest is (grim) history.

Precisely what was included in “our deal,” as the Deputy White House Chief of Staff called it?  The House Energy and Commerce Committee promises to lay out the details “in the coming weeks,” along with discussing “how the full details of this agreement were kept from both the public and the House of Representatives.” 

This obfuscation was quite deliberate, as an email between White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy Ann DeParle and a PhRMA representative makes clear.  In the email, DeParle muses, “I think we should have included the House of Representatives, but maybe we never would have gotten anywhere if we had.” 

That’s why end-runs around Congress are so important when “We Can’t Wait.”  When the righteous want to take us someplace in a hurry, the Constitution becomes an annoying speed bump.

Judging by the House Energy and Commerce report, the deal it cut to win the support of Big Pharmaceutical is not something the White House relishes discussing:

After this Committee initiated its investigation into the potential promises or agreements made between PhRMA, labor unions, insurers, medical associations, and other trade and advocacy organizations, the White House derided the Committee’s request for basic information about its legislative efforts as “vast and expensive.” 

The White House refused to produce any of the requested documents and only produced to the Committee a list of meetings based on “calendar entries and other readily available information.”  These calendar entries do not provide information on the attendees or details of discussion.  For example, the calendar provided by the White House identifies a July 7, 2009, event as follows:  “Meeting with PhRMA representatives.”

No further information is provided.  This investigation, however, has revealed that this was not only a meeting between representatives of PhRMA and top White House aides; it was the critical meeting to solidify the deal.  As a PhRMA representative said at the time:  “It’s just to go over the principal elements of the deal w[ith] Rahm, Messina and DeParle.”

House investigators will now commence reviewing the principal elements of the deal with the rest of us.