(CBS) As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama called for completely transparent health care deliberations and even promised to hold all negotiations on C-SPAN. Now, as the health care debate reaches its final stages, the nonprofit cable company is asking Washington leaders to follow through on that promise.
C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb sent a letter to congressional leaders last week, asking that they "open all important negotiations, including any conference committee meetings, to electronic media coverage."
"Many of your rank-and-file members, and the nation's editorial pages have all talked about the value of transparent discussions on reforming the nation's health care system," , Lamb said in the letter, which was sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "Now that the process moves to the critical stage of reconciliation between the Chambers, we respectfully request that you allow the public full access, through television, to legislation that will affect the lives of every single American."
As Lamb notes, "literall hundreds of hours" of committee hearings, debate and meetings have been broadcast on C-SPAN through the health care debate, allowing journalists, bloggers, watchdog groups and citizens to follow the process. Other significant parts of the health care debate, however, have remained behind closed doors, such as Mr. Obama's negotiations with the pharmaceutical industry which resulted in a deal committing the industry to a specific contribution to reform.
CBSNews.com Special Report: Health Care
Now that Democrats have passed a health care bill in both the House and the Senate, they will need to reconcile the two bills. That process could take place through the formal "conference committee" process, or it could happen informally. Either way, there are sure to be important negotiations and meetings taking place among Democratic leaders that remain private.
Lamb said the C-SPAN networks are willing to commit all of the resources necessary to comprehensively cover the upcoming conference committee sessions live.
"We are most willing to employ the latest digital technology to make the cameras, lights and microphones as unobtrusive as possible," he added.
When asked last week about the level of transparency so far in the health care debate, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the legislative process has played out clearly in the hearings and debates that have been aired on C-SPAN.
"I think, quite frankly, people have a pretty good sense of who is battling on behalf of thousands of lobbyists that are trying to protect drugs profits and insurance profits, and who's fighting on behalf of middle-class Americans," he said.
Pressed on the issue again today, Gibbs said he has not seen the C-SPAN letter but that he doesn't think "the American people have lacked for information on what's in these bills," or "the political and policy arguments around people's position."
(FOX News) The head of C-SPAN has implored Congress to open up the last leg of health care reform negotiations to the public, as top Democrats lay plans to hash out the final product among themselves.
C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb wrote to leaders in the House and Senate Dec. 30 urging them to open "all important negotiations, including any conference committee meetings," to televised coverage on his network.
"The C-SPAN networks will commit the necessary resources to covering all of the sessions LIVE and in their entirety," he wrote.
In a Tuesday afternoon press conference on health legislation negotiations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared to object to the premise behind the request.
"There has never been a more open process for any legislation in anyone who’s served here’s experience," she said.
However, Republican leaders sided with C-SPAN's calls for transparency.
"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," Minority Leader John Boehner wrote in response to 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."
Democratic leaders could bypass the traditional conference committee process, in which lawmakers from both parties and chambers meet to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of a bill. Top Democrats in the House, Senate and White House were meeting Tuesday evening to figure out the final product in three-way talks before sending it back to both chambers for a final vote.
"We don't even know yet whether there's going to be a conference," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen said responding to a question about the C-SPAN request. "It's not clear whether or not that's going to happen yet."
This format would seem ideal for closed-door meetings, which congressional Democrats have used many times to figure out sensitive provisions in the health care bill -- though President Obama pledged during the campaign to open up health care talks to C-SPAN's cameras.
"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," Obama said at a debate against Hillary Clinton in Los Angeles on Jan. 31, 2008.
Asked about the request to Congress, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he hadn't seen the letter.
"I know the president is going to begin discussions today on health care to iron out differences between the House and Senate bills," he said.
Lamb urged Congress in his letter to fling open the doors in the final stretch of the negotiations.
"President Obama, Senate and House leaders, many of your rank-and-file members, and the nation's editorial pages have all talked about the value of transparent discussions on reforming the nation's health care system," he wrote. "Now that the process moves to the critical stage of reconciliation between the chambers, we respectfully request that you allow the public full access, through television, to legislation that will affect the lives of every single American."
Lamb said his network would use "the latest technology" to be "as unobtrusive as possible" during the talks.
(Politico) The top House Republican said Wednesday it would be “a disgrace” if Democrats ignore President Barack Obama’s campaign commitment to broadcast negotiations on the health care bill on C-SPAN.
“Let’s be clear,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a news release. “Skipping a real, open conference would shut out the American people and break one of President Obama’s signature campaign promises.”
C-SPAN has emerged as an unlikely player in the health care debate. Obama and congressional Democrats have thus far resisted Republican demands to broadcast negotiations on television, skirting a promise the president made during the lengthy 2008 presidential campaign. But Brian Lamb, the CEO of C-SPAN, sent a letter Tuesday to top members of Congress asking to broadcast the conference negotiations.
Adding fuel to the fire, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and other top Democrats have signaled that they will bypass a traditional House-Senate conference as they meld the two health care bills.
House Democratic leaders Tuesday did not directly respond to inquiries about C-SPAN’s request to broadcast such proceedings.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is ratcheting up the pressure in his chamber, circulating a letter to be sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that urges the live C-SPAN broadcast. The letter currently has 23 co-signers.
“To ensure that the American people have the ability to witness the on-going negotiations between the House and Senate, be it a formal or informal conference process, we ask that any negotiations regarding a final health care reform bill be conducted in the light of day,” Thune wrote in the letter, obtained by POLITICO. “The chairman of C-SPAN, the network responsible for broadcasting the deliberations of Congress, has offered resources to cover all negotiation sessions live. We urge you to take him up on this offer.”---
Morning Bell: Obama’s Other Broken Health Care Promises
(Heritage) When Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) emerged from a closed-door meeting with top House Democratic leaders yesterday, the press asked her about C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb’s request that she permit cameras to televise the final health care negotiations between the House and Senate. After Pelosi first demurred, a reporter reminded Pelosi about President Barack Obama’s frequent promises to the American people throughout 2008 that he would ensure C-SPAN was allowed to televise exactly such negotiations, to which Speaker Pelosi quipped: “There are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail.”
Speaker Pelosi is right: President Obama’s broken health care promises are legendary. According to reports, Speaker Pelosi wasn’t even referring to Obama’s whopper from last month that he never campaigned on the public option. No, Speaker Pelosi is
apparently most upset with Obama’s support for the Senate’s tax on high cost health plans, which she believes is a violation of Obama’s promise not to raise taxes on the middle class. But really, President Obama’s current health care plan breaks so many of his previous health care promises, there is no need for Pelosi to have to name just one. Here are just some of the other major promises President Barack Obama has broken:
Individual Mandate: There were not a lot of actual policy fights in the 2008 Democratic Presidential primary, but one of the few major policy disagreements between then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) was over the individual mandate. Clinton was for it and Obama was against it. On January 31, 2008, Obama made the case against mandates in a Los Angeles, CA, debate: “Now, under any mandate, you are going to have problems with people who don’t end up having health coverage. I think we can anticipate that there would also be people potentially who are not covered and are actually hurt if they have a mandate imposed on them.” Both the House and Senate bills now contain an individual mandate. According to the President’s own Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, under the Senate plan, 19 million Americans would pay $29 billion in taxes/fines and still receive no health care in return.
You Will Not Lose Your Doctor: On June 15, 2009, President Obama promised the American people: “No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people. If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.” Again, the President’s own Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirms that the current Senate health bill breaks this promise. Seventeen million Americans will be forced out of their existing health insurance. Worse, the CMS explains that continued Medicare cuts will encourage more doctors to stop seeing Medicare patients entirely, and the 18 million people added to Medicaid will also make it next to impossible for those already on Medicaid to find a doctor who will treat them.
No Tax Hikes for People Making Less than $250,000: On February 24, 2009, President Barack Obama promised the American people: “if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime.” Speaker Pelosi believes the Senate bill’s excise tax on insurance plans breaks this promise, and she is right. But it is not the only way that Obamacare shatters the President’s no-middle-class-tax-hike pledge. There are a slew of new taxes in the Senate bill, many of which will hit the middle class, including taxes on medical devices, tanning beds, insurance user fees, and brand name drugs (not to mention the individual mandate which is enforced by a tax or the employer mandate which kills jobs and punishes the poor).
Your Health Premiums Will Be $2,500 Lower: On October 15, 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) promised the American people: “The only thing we’re going to try to do is lower costs so that those cost savings are passed onto you. And we estimate we can cut the average family’s premium by about $2,500 per year.” According to the Congressional Budget Office, Americans in large-group employer-sponsored plans would, on average, see their premiums remain flat, while individuals who purchase insurance in the non-group market would see much higher premiums in 2016 under Obamacare than they would under current law. And many believe those estimates are optimistic. According to the Lewin Group, once fully implemented, health care spending per worker will increase for all employers who do not currently offer coverage — $316 per worker under the Senate bill and $800 increase per worker under the House bill.
Health Reform Reduces the Deficit: On September 10, 2009, President Barack Obama promised the American people: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future. Period.” Even the President’s most ardent supporters are now admitting the Senate bill is full of budget gimmicks to make it appear Obamacare will reduce the deficit. When the true cost of Obamacare is considered, the final tab comes to $2.5 trillion with an honest accounting of Medicare reimbursement rates netting a $765 billion deficit all by itself.
Tax Payer Funded Abortion: On September 10, 2009, President Barack Obama promised the American people: “No federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.” While the House bill’s Stupak amendment language fulfills this promise, the Senate’s Nelson compromise does not. If the Senate language were to become law, it would overturn the precedent set by the Hyde Amendment, the FEHBP (Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan), Military insurance through TRICARE, and the Indian Health Service. Your taxdollars most definitely would be paying for elective abortions.
No one expects a President to fulfill 100% of his promises. But when the failures to live up to your past pledges pile so high, it shouldn’t be any surprise that the American people have turned so strongly against President Obama’s health care plan.
You can read the C-SPAN letter here.
You’ll find more reaction to C-Span’s letter here.
Do you think the health care debate should be televised so the public can see what their elected officials are doing? Let me know your thoughts.
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