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Letter to the Honorable Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader

Lincoln Announces Plan for Greater Transparency in Health Insurance Reform for Arkansans

Citing the right of Arkansans to know in advance what health care changes that Senators will be voting on later this month, U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark) today led a group of Democratic Senators in pressuring Senate leaders for greater transparency in the health insurance reform debate.

"Over the past few months, I have heard from many Arkansans who are frustrated and lack accurate information on the emerging health care proposals in Congress," Lincoln said. "In response to their requests, today, I am unveiling my plan for greater transparency as health insurance reform legislation moves to the Senate floor."

Lincoln detailed her plan for greater transparency in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Her letter was also signed by fellow Democratic Senators Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Independent Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn).

Lincoln's plan for greater transparency regarding health insurance reform legislation would require the following:

• Legislative text and complete budget costs from the Congressional Budget Office to be posted on a public website at least 72 hours prior to the first vote to proceed to health reform legislation;

• The legislative text and complete costs of the health care bill as amended made available to the public for 72 hours prior to the vote on final passage of the Senate bill;

• The legislative text of all amendments filed and offered for debate on the Senate floor posted on a public website prior to beginning debate on the amendment;

• The final agreement between the House of Representatives and the Senate and complete costs of the final bill made available to the public for 72 hours prior to the vote on final passage in the Senate.

"At a time when trust in Congress and the U.S. government is unprecedentedly low, we can begin to rebuild the American people's faith in their federal government through transparency and by actively inviting Americans to participate in the legislative process," the Senators wrote.

A copy of the text of the letter is below.

October 6, 2009

The Honorable Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader
S-221 United States Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Leader Reid:

As you know, Americans across our country have been actively engaged in the debate on health care reform. Whether or not our constituents agree with the direction of the debate, many are frustrated and lacking accurate information on the emerging proposals in Congress. Without a doubt, reforming health care in America is one of the most monumental and far-reaching undertakings considered by this body in decades. We believe the American public's participation in this process is critical to our overall success of creating a bill that lowers health care costs and offers access to quality and affordable health care for all Americans.

Every step of the process needs to be transparent, and information regarding the bill needs to be readily available to our constituents before the Senate starts to vote on legislation that will affect the lives of every American. The legislative text and complete budget scores from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) of the health care legislation considered on the Senate floor should be made available on a website the public can access for at least 72 hours prior to the first vote to proceed to the legislation. Likewise, the legislative text and complete CBO scores of the health care legislation as amended should be made available to the public for 72 hours prior to the vote on final passage of the bill in the Senate. Further, the legislative text of all amendments filed and offered for debate on the Senate floor should be posted on a public website prior to beginning debate on the amendment on the Senate floor. Lastly, upon a final agreement between the House of Representatives and the Senate, a formal conference report detailing the agreement and complete CBO scores of the agreement should be made available to the public for 72 hours prior to the vote on final passage of the conference report in the Senate.

By publically posting the legislation and its CBO scores 72 hours before it is brought to a vote in the Senate and by publishing the text of amendments before they are debated, our constituents will have the opportunity to evaluate these policies and communicate their concerns or their message of support to their Members of Congress. As their democratically-elected representatives in Washington, D.C., it is our duty to listen to their concerns and to provide them with the chance to respond to proposals that will impact their lives. At a time when trust in Congress and the U.S. government is unprecedentedly low, we can begin to rebuild the American people's faith in their federal government through transparency and by actively inviting Americans to participate in the legislative process.

We respectfully request that you agree to these principles before moving forward with floor debate of this legislation. We appreciate your serious consideration and look forward to working with you on health care reform legislation in the weeks ahead.

Sincerely,

Senator Blanche L. Lincoln
Senator Evan Bayh
Senator Mary L. Landrieu
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman
Senator Claire McCaskill
Senator Ben Nelson
Senator Mark L. Pryor
Senator Jim Webb


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