Press Pool, C-SPAN Join Criticism of Conference Process on Health-Care
"It was a promise that's been shattered."
9:30 AM, Jan 5, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
Yesterday, several outlets reported that the Democrats would "almost certainly" forgo the official conference process to get a health-care bill passed, opting instead to negotiate largely behind closed doors. Now, C-SPAN and other media outlets are criticizing the plan's lack of transparency.
Many reform proponents painted this as a valiant move on the part of Democrats to protect the American people from the procedural stalling tactics of Republicans:
The problem for health-care reform proponents, though, is that it isn't just Tea Party activists and the GOP who are complaining about the opaque nature of the process now, and Obama himself promised to have negotiations aired on C-SPAN during a debate in January of 2008. Chances are he could have talked himself out of this contradiction a year ago, smoothing things over with an "I've consistently said" or two, but no longer.
When a liberal replied, on Twitter, that she'd seen hours of discussion of health-care on the floor, he answered: "that's great but the pledge went far beyond cmte & floor debate to talks where things actually got hashed out. that wasn't on TV."
C-SPAN's president Brian Lamb has also joined the mix, sending a letter asking for the negotiations to be televised:
The link to the full letter is here.
This weekend, ABC's Jake Tapper gave Robert Gibbs a chance to make good on Obama's campaign promise, but Gibbs declined with his characteristic soft touch:
Note to Gibbs: When you're stressing the openness of the Senate process, it's best not to mention that votes took place at 1 and 2 a.m. on weekends, when you weren't even awake.
Politifact calls this promise officially broken.
For a bill that's faced a thousand p.r. obstacles in its legislative marathon, the coalescing conventional wisdom suggests this last effort to get it over the finish line may shape up to be another obstacle itself. And even if it works, which it very well may, the president will have to chalk up another chunk of political capital and another huge chink in his reputation as an honest, change agent.