"These negotiations will be on C-SPAN and so the public will be part of the conversation and will see the choices that are being made." That is how then-candidate Barrack Obama promised the American people the negotiations over the Democrats' health care overhaul would occur. Transparency was promised to be a key feature of the debate. While it is true that it is appropriate for legislators to have private discussions about legislation, in this case the Democrats have not followed the normal conference committee process and they are going back on a promise of transparency that was made to the American public.
For weeks now Democratic leaders of the House and Senate have been anything but transparent, meeting behind closed doors to secretly cut deals on the final health care bill. Despite his promise of transparency, President Obama's Administration has been participating in these closed proceedings, offering advice and encouraging these Members to quickly work out a final product. This secrecy is completely unacceptable.
The American people deserve to see how their representatives are making decisions that will so fundamentally affect their daily lives. By all accounts, this bill will bestow broad authority upon unelected bureaucrats to decide what health care benefits you may and may not receive; it will allow the federal government to reach into the pockets of all Americans by requiring that they buy health insurance coverage that the federal government deems acceptable or face an additional 2.5% tax on their incomes; it will cut the Medicare program by hundreds of billions of dollars, with some of the biggest cuts to the popular Medicare Advantage program, forcing millions of seniors to switch their coverage even if they like their current plans -- another broken campaign promise; and it will significantly increase premiums for health insurance. The stakes are simply too high to allow these major decisions to be made behind closed doors.
Last week, House Republicans wrote a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanding that the final health care bill at least be posted on the Internet for public review 14 days prior to any scheduled vote on the bill. However, Republicans aren't the only ones demanding that these proceedings be opened to the public.
I have also cosponsored a resolution calling on Speaker Pelosi to publicly broadcast all health care negotiations. This bipartisan resolution has received support from rank and file Democratic members.
Furthermore, even the non-partisan C-SPAN has written to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid calling them out on their broken promises of transparency. In a letter dated December 30th, C-SPAN pleaded with Congressional leaders to allow the public full access to these negotiations, noting that "President Obama, Senate and House leaders have all talked about the value of transparent discussions on reforming the nation's health care system."
Everyone but an elite few are in agreement that negotiations over this health care overhaul should be done in full public view, so the people will know what's going on.
To contact me about this or any other matter, please visit my website at www.goodlatte.house.gov.