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A Shame of a Process for a Sham of a Bill

Morning Bell

Speaking at a town hall meeting on August 21, 2008, in Chester, Virginia, then-candidate Barack Obama promised the American people: "I'm going to have all the negotiations around a big table. We'll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. Insurance companies, drug companies ... what we will do is, we'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents ... And so, that approach, I think is what is going to allow people to stay involved in this process." The participants around Obama's fictional big table may have changed depending on where he was speaking, but throughout his campaign the essential promise was always there: "negotiations televised on C-SPAN."

Of course, Obama already broke this promise to the American people months ago. According to PoliFact, the backroom deals Obama cut with drug companies and hospitals last July already violated this pledge. But those were just preliminary negotiations. Surely when it came time for the final health care bill passage in Congress, Obama and his allies would welcome some transparency into the process? No such luck.

Obama: "Clintons Did Health Care The Wrong Way, By Going Behind Closed Doors"

Politico is reporting that President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will meet at the White House today (joined by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) via conference call) to set the parameters for reconciling the House and Senate versions of health care legislation. However, instead of proceeding with the usual public and open conference committee process, the White House is going to take a very active role in secret behind-closed-door meetings between the House and Senate. The Sunlight Foundation explains the implications for the American people: "Both House and Senate rules require that all conference committee meetings be open to the public unless a majority of conferees votes in open session to close the meetings. Senate rules require all conference committee reports be publicly available for at least 48 hours prior to a final vote. Without conference, there is no mechanism to provide for openness in the final discussions regarding the health care bill."

And there is plenty of reason the American people should demand transparency in the final stages of the legislative process. We previously identified Six Key Differences between the House and Senate bills, all of which deserve their own public debate. But one issue in particular is in desperate need of the disinfectant powers of sunlight: Sen. Ben Nelson's (D-NE) deal exempting Nebraska from the costs of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion.

Last week, after a group of 13 state attorneys general promised to file suit against Obamacare should the Nelson deal become law, Nelson called South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster to "call off the dogs." According to McMaster's office, Nelson said the deal was not his idea, was simply a "marker" placed in the bill, and that the issue would be fixed by extending the same Medicaid exemption to all states. Will the budget-busting Medicaid problem get "fixed" for all states? If so, how? The American people deserve to know.

There is more than one reason the American people have turned solidly against President Obama's health plan. Americans believe Obama's plan will increase their health care costs, decrease the quality of their health care, raise their taxes, and increase the deficit. And as former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has admitted, Obamacare is not real health care reform. No wonder President Obama wants as little public input as possible.

Quick Hits:

  • CSPAN has sent a letter to the House and Senate asking that they "open all important negotiations" to electronic media coverage.
  • Democrats in favor of amnesty have agreed to vote for President Barack Obama's health care legislation in exchange for an Obama promise for amnesty legislation later this year.
  • California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to seek a federal bailout to help close the $21 billion deficit his state faces over the next 18 months.
  • The number of Americans filing for personal bankruptcy rose by nearly a third in 2009.
  • According to the British government, MI5 told American intelligence agents more than a year ago that the Detroit bomber had links to extremists.
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