Gibbs Passes On One Last Chance to Make Health Care Negotiations Transparent

On This Week this morning, I noted to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs that there was some deal-making that went on as the health care reform legislation hit the House and especially the Senate -- the kind of deal-making that was one of the reasons that President Obama, then Senator Obama, pledged on the campaign trail that "we'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so the people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents and who is making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies."

PolitiFact labeled that a broken promise but in the spirit of the Christmas season, I was more generous, noting that there remains one more step in the negotiation process, and in fact last week President Obama told PBS about this final reconciliation between the House bill and the Senate bill, "We hope to have a whole bunch of folks over here in the West Wing, and I'll be rolling up my sleeves and spending some time before the full Congress even gets into session, because the American people need this now." So, with that in mind, I asked Gibbs, will the president open up the doors for this final negotiation?

He's in charge of it. It's going to be taking place at the West Wing.

The President will have Democratic leaders from the House and Senate negotiating this House and Senate bill.

Will he commit to opening up that process to C-SPAN cameras so we can see how this happens?

Gibbs' response: "Well, Jake, first of all, let's take a step back and understand that this is a process legislatively that has played out over the course of nine months. There have been a countless number of public hearings. The Senate did a lot of their voting at 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning on C-SPAN. A lot of this debate -- I think what the president promised and pledged was so that you could see who was fighting for their constituents and who was fighting for drug and insurance companies…"

But he was talking about negotiations, not voting, I interrupted. About the bill being put together.

"Well, but the bill gets put together on the floor of the Senate," Gibbs said. "That's where the bill got augmented. And I think if you watched that debate -- I don't know -- I wasn't up at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning for a lot of those votes, but I think if the American public had watched -- has watched the committee process play out in both the House and the Senate, watched the process play out on both the floor and the -- the floor of the House and the floor of the Senate, you'd have seen quite a bit of public hearing and public airing, and I think quite frankly, people have a pretty good sense of who is battling on behalf of thousands of lobbyists that are trying to protect drugs profits and insurance profits, and who's fighting on behalf of middle-class Americans hoping once and for all to have access to affordable insurance and removing insurance company restrictions like discriminating against people that are sick."

So…what do you think? Is President Obama upholding his pledge of transparency?

- jpt

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