It’s a new year, but we’re still talking about the same old subjects. Today’s topic takes us back to the Health Care Reform legislation. If you recall, I left the conversation with the Senate debating on the language of their bill a week before they were set to vote. The Senate bill has passed, and it is now time for the two houses of Congress to come together and merge their bills.
If we continue to look back, during the presidential campaign, candidate Barack Obama repeated made the point that the Health Care Reform discussion and deliberations would be televised by C-SPAN. He made this point because he believes the general public (or at least those who have access to C-SPAN) should be able to watch the process and examine the politicians to see if they were in the pocket for the lobbyists and health care companies. Of course, as President he can not force the Congress to televise their deliberations, but an issue that significantly impact everyone and the national debt should be transparent to the public.
Going back even further, we recall the night that the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives. Nancy Pelosi stated that the Democrats “intend most … open … congress in history.” This came on the heals of a campaign where the Democrats national message hammered the Republicans over secrecy on legislation and meetings with corporate representatives and lobbyists.
So what is the discussion in the news today? Brian Lamb, the CEO of C-SPAN, wrote a letter to Congressional Democratic leaders asking them for permission to put cameras in the room where negotiations between the two Houses would be held. Unfortunately for C-SPAN, Pelosi and Harry Reid are planning to do what is being called “ping pong” – a process where the two sides will submit recommendations of revisions to each other without convening a formal session for deliberations. Noting that this lack of openness and transparency would be a hot-topic issue, Pelosi came out and cut the debate off early by stating “there has never been a more open process for any legislation.”
So what should the general public think of this process? Is this hypocrisy? Politics as usual? Whatever you might call it, I find it silly. Silly, because the only reason why Pelosi and Reid are taking this route is because their hallmark legislation has become such a thorny issue that they can’t risk additional public debate without risking further political damage. As it is, public support for the legislation continues to slip, and both moderate and far-left Democrats are complaining about the extent and scope of the proposed reform. Having this hanging around their neck leading into the election year is something the two leaders want to keep out of the news and signed quickly.
The Hill – “Pelosi tells C-SPAN: ‘There never been a more open process’”
The Washington Times – “EDITORIAL: Hiding health bills behind closed doors”
Real Clear Politics – “Obama’s C-Span Problem”
U.S. News & World Report – “Democratic Leaders Plan Secret Health Reform Deliberations”
FOX News – “C-SPAN Challenges Congress to Open Health Care Talks to TV Coverage”
CNN – “Boehner backs move to open health care talks to media”