Reid, Pelosi Ought To Let The Sunshine In

Created in 1979, the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network (or C-SPAN as it is more popularly known) is a must for concerned citizens wanting to keep tabs on what lawmakers are doing in Washington. Since its inception three decades ago, countless hours of congressional hearings, political conventions and rallies, debates, and other public affairs events have appeared on the C-SPAN networks in a pure, uncut and unfiltered manner.

Recently, C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb sent a letter to Democratic and Republican congressional leaders requesting that C-SPAN's cameras be allowed into the final negotiations of the 2,000-page, multi-billion dollar health care bill.

Lamb's letter, which was sent to most media outlets including the blogs, said that reforming the nation's health care system affects every American and as such should be televised in order to further facilitate a transparent discussion on health care reform.

When pressed by reporters to respond to Mr. Lamb's request, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hemmed and hawed then passed on C-SPAN's request. Republicans, on the other hand, welcomed the cameras of C-SPAN with open arms.

In response to questions posed to them on my blog, Georgia Politics Unfiltered, both Sens. Chambliss and Isakson expressed disappointment in the backroom negotiations that's tainted the debate on this important issue. 6th district Congressman Tom Price pointed to President Obama's campaign promise of broadcasting the health care talks on C-SPAN in plain view of the American people.

"If the Democrats aren’t engaging in more nefarious backroom deal-making, why do they refuse to pull back the curtains and let the public see what’s going on?," Price correctly asked. "What are they doing that they don’t want us to see?"

The office of Congressman Lynn Westmoreland was more blunt:

"No excuses. Put health talks on TV," a Westmoreland news release said.

Openness, honesty and transparency should not be a political football. Both Democrats and Republicans should unequivocally open up government and let the sunshine in. These days, however, Democrats seem more interested in passing a bill than fulfilling their campaign pledge of leading the "most honest, most open and most ethical" government in history. And that's a shame.

[EDITOR'S NOTE]: Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill is the only Democrat to date that has called for C-SPAN cameras to broadcast the final health care negotiations [Montopoli, Brian (2010-1-8). Democrat Backs C-SPAN Broadcast of Health Debate. CBS News. Retrieved on 2010-1-10.].

Tags: U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Tom Price, Lynn Westmoreland, Johnny Isakson, saxby chambliss, Georgia, C-Span, open government, Health care (all tags)

Comments

4 Comments

Tips & Recs For Open, Honest & Transparent Gov't

Open government is grand.

by Andre Walker 2010-01-10 03:34AM | 1 recs
Bit Ridiculous

This is a bit ridiculous. HC negotiations have already occured on CSPAN - all the committee hearings, the final debate and votes were all tellecast. Nothing that occurs in confrence can be "snuck through", the final legislation still has to be posted online, then debated and voted in the senate and house.

by vecky 2010-01-10 12:47PM | 0 recs
Republicans are for transparency...

...when the spotlight is on the Democrats.

I read a book in college called the "Irony of Reform".  I wish I still had it lying around somewhere.  The authors argued that a lot of the reforms instituted in the post-Watergate era intended to open up the political process combined with changes in the media and information technology have combined to make governing extraordinarily difficult.

The book ended with some suggestions.  One of them I didn't like--adding seats to the House for the president to fill (presumably to give the president a voice in Congress).  But some of the others were worth thinking about--like extending terms in the House to four years so legislators aren't constantly running for election.

The central and most controversial point they made is that more openness and transparency isn't always a good thing.  Legislators should be able to do some of their work without TV cameras and reporters and interest groups staring over their shoulders.

by psychodrew 2010-01-10 06:39PM | 1 recs
Agree with Andre

What is going on here is the final assembly of a bill that has an impact on all of us.  We all know that the final bill will be moved quickly through the house and senate - this isn't some kind of random moment that we could give to our representatives to take a breath and walk away and come back to vote.

 

But. I think its important to highlight the diarist's intent. If I am not mistaken, the term 'let the sun shine in' a bit, refers to allowing C-SPAN, in this case - to broadcast some of the negotiations.

 

Clearly, what would happen with the conference committee would have given the GOP a window of opportunity to delay the bill. The house and senate are desperately trying to finish something before the President's State of the Union address. Why?

 

Because this bill and the legislation regarding Healthcare reform deserve it. When Britain's National Health Service Launched, the Brits printed up leaflets and distributed them to everyone - to explain the benefits of the new system.  If this bill is assembled properly, and includes a National Health Service, it will be the president's greatest accomplishment.

 

It should not, however, be at the lack of transparency. I propose the following.

 

Allow CSPAN to broadcast some of the negotiations. Let the acquire a prime time slot for it  - Reid and Pelosi can bargain from a position of strength with CSPAN.  This will be something that can allow CSPAN to air a few hours of the talks without harm to the process.  The senators and congressman can all do the rest of the 90 hours of work in chambers.

 

Second, Reid, and Pelosi - should post online the simple fact of whether or not a National Health Service - the major difference between the House and Senate bill - is going to be included in the final bill.

 

Obviously, we would think the House would have an advantage here, seeing as how the American people have shown broad and deep support for a National Health Service. At one point they were polling 72 percent in favor of it.

 

And clearly, this has also been - as Howard Dean has written - a 'Carrot on a Stick' for the progressive movement. They keep promising a National Health Service, and they cut a part of the bill here and there - and that is what happened to Mr. Reid.  Republican calls for him to step down are popular only because the support for a National Health Service is so broad and deep - and he caved into special interests, and was vulnerable -when a book came out that questioned his statements during the campaign of 2008.   Reid is also from a conservative leaning state - and the one thing that will cost him his job is if he puts the interests of the lobbyists over that of the people.

 

But Pelosi has some skeletons in her closet as well. She has openly stated that a National Health Service belongs to the Public. And that she will stand strong.

But when she gets out of the Public Eye - she does things like try to block Small Business Innovation Research re-authorization. And why? So that the bill that would re-authorize 2% of the federal funding budget that goes into a sector that employs 38% of all Scientists and Engineers in America -  would be held up because she wants provisions that a lobbyist need added - in a bill whose differences in the house and senate version - happened to be one in which the house version contained a provision that large Venture Capital firms happened to want.  Pelosi is not seen, widely - by the american people as being affiliated with large Venture Capital Firms, nor seen as a wealthy woman whose personal interests often align with investment firms.  But in the case of Small Business Innovation Reauthorization, she is not allowing the act to be reauthorized because the Senate Bill has a Cap on the amount , essentially, of ownership - and the amount that large Venture Capital firms can, for all intents and purposes take - from the SBIR fund.  SBIR funds were only supposed to be starter funds for small businesses - and to encourage innovation. But Apparently Nancy Pelosi thinks Big Venture Capital needs love.

And guess what. The biggest lobbyist there. Is a Biotech lobby. That wants to keep the status quo. ON HEALTHCARE.

How? Because the SBIR act wasn't or isn't in the spotlight and line items of bills can get shuffled around during a game of ping pong.

But a National Health Service isn't a line item. It  is the entire point of the game.

So, when we get behind closed doors things don't always work better. Andre is right.

We shouldn't see hours and hours of continuous coverage here - but we should see something. And we are owed, as Americans - the right to know whether or not a Very Key Provision of the Legislation - the House Version Line Item that creates a National Health Service - is still alive.

Pelosi said she would post it on a website. Let CSPAN do it for her since she doesn't seem to be able to get around to it? Reid is busy at the moment...

Good work Andre.

 

But. We

 

 

by Trey Rentz 2010-01-11 06:40AM | 0 recs

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