Democrats Challenged to Open Health Care Debate
C-SPAN Challenges Congress to Open Health Care Talks to TV Coverage
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.
Congressional leaders, however, reportedly are expected to 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. Instead, The Associated Press reports that top Democrats at the House, Senate and White House will figure out the final product in three-way talks before sending it back to both chambers for a final vote.
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.
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.
The letter can be read in entirety here.