When he was campaigning last year, Mr. Obama swore that C-SPAN would have access to all Congressional meetings that his administration was concerned with.
We'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies.
That was then this is now. C-SPAN is being denied access to the Reconciliation process between the House and the Senate this month. The New Republic is reporting that the Democratic leadership in both houses have decided to bypass the conference committee process in order to avoid having to televise those meetings on C-SPAN.
According to a pair of senior Capitol Hill staffers, one from each chamber, House and Senate Democrats are “almost certain” to negotiate informally rather than convene a formal conference committee. Doing so would allow Democrats to avoid a series of procedural steps--not least among them, a series of special motions in the Senate, each requiring a vote with full debate--that Republicans could use to stall deliberations, just as they did in November and December. “There will almost certainly be full negotiations but no formal conference,” the House staffer says. “There are too many procedural hurdles to go the formal conference route in the Senate.” [moreover] “I think the Republicans have made our decision for us," the Senate staffer says. "It’s time for a little ping-pong.” “Ping pong” is a reference to one way the House and Senate could proceed. With ping-ponging, the chambers send legislation back and forth to one another until they finally have an agreed-upon version of the bill.Yet C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb argues [via motherjones.com]:
After all, we can't have the proles getting a look into how things are really done by Congress, now can we? Yet another campaign promise goes by the boards. Obama lied, America pays, and pays and will pay for decades to come.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. 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.
He has a point. But Lamb shouldn't expect Obama to lean on his fellow Dems in Congress to grant C-SPAN its wish. Last July, Obama was asked about his campaign pledge:
Q: You promised that health care negotiations would take place on C-SPAN and that hasn't happened....Are you fulfilling your promise of transparency in the White House?
With respect to all the negotiations not being on C-SPAN, you will recall in this very room that our kick-off event was here on C-SPAN. And at a certain point, you know, you start getting into all kinds of different meetings. The Senate Finance Committee is having a meeting. The House is having a meeting. If they want those to be on C-SPAN, then I would welcome it. I don't think there are a lot of secrets going on in there.
That was a dodgy answer. Obama's "kick-off event" was not part of the negotiations. And there are always "secrets" when legislators come together in private to slice and dice the sausage. Lamb is right to press Congress to show citizens how this important bill is being finalized. But he sure shouldn't count on filling any programming holes with broadcasts of these proceedings.
If Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid do succeed in shutting out the GOP from the reconciliation process, then the Democratic Party will not just own this disastrous bill, but they will hang this millstone around the necks of your children's children children...