In August of 2008 at a town hall meeting in Chester, VA, presidential candidate Barack Obama said the following on health care reform - "I'm going to have all the negotiations around a big table. We'll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. Insurance companies, drug companies — they'll get a seat at the table… 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."
Fast forward to October of 2009 and in a small room in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office, behind closed doors, a final Senate bill is being written. The only people around the so-called "big table" are Senator Reid, Senator Chris Dodd, Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Max Baucus, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebeilus plus a few aides all looking to replace our current health care system, which makes up one-sixth of the economy. If they have their way, we will end up with something so destructive and that will raise premiums, create new taxes, ration medical care, and eventually put private insurance out of business. What happened to the doctors, nurses, insurance and drug companies, and most importantly, the bipartisanship the president campaigned on? Oh, I know he’s president know and doesn't have to follow through with his campaign promise.
For a president who campaigned on the issue of transparency, this is just another campaign promise broken. The American voter is becoming skeptical if he can keep any campaign promise. He promised to post bills for five (5) days on the web before signing. It’s a promise he keeps breaking bill after bill. So far 11 bills have been signed into law and not one of them has made it to the World Wide Web.
In regards to health care, the president made several promises. He said "we have to enlist the American people in this process" but when we tried to voice our opinion at town hall meetings we were called names. He said "I would welcome input" but hasn't invited the GOP to the White House since April. He said "if you have better ideas please present them" but every amendment proposed by the Republicans has been turned down or is stuck in committee. He said "the public will be part of the conversation" but then let his Sr. Advisor and leaders in Congress insult those who disagree with them. He said the Clinton's made one huge mistake and that was they took "all their experts into one room and then they closed the door. They tried to design the plan in isolation from the American people." Sound familiar?
Representatives Brian Baird (D-WA) and Greg Walden (R-OR) have been trying to get a petition signed by lawmakers that would "force a vote" on an amendment that would require a 72 hour viewing process. So far, nearly every Republican had signed the petition but the democratic leadership is discouraging its members doing the same.
Rep. Baird warns of the democrats desire to hide bills from the public. He says "Democrats know politically it's difficult to defend not doing this… The public gets this. They say we entrust you with the profound responsibility of making decisions that affect our lives, and we expect you to exercise due diligence in carrying out that responsibility."
Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) offered a similar amendment in regards to the health care bill. This amendment required the actual legislative text sent to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office for a cost estimate and for the bill to be posted on the Senate Finance committee website. The amendment was defeated along party lines with the exception of Senator, Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), who sided with the Republicans.
Americans have become skeptical of the "need" this White House and Congress have to pass bills quickly with little time for debate. Michael Franc, president of the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation said “The American people are now suspicious of not only the lawmakers, but the process they hide behind to do their work."
This Congress has refused to give the proper legislation to the CBO so they can have the proper amount of time to analyze. They have rejected any and all measures that would save us from their president’s broken promises on health care. If common sense still existed, then Congress would start over allowing both sides to the bargaining table.
If health care reform doesn't constitute a need for transparency, then I don't know what does. This president promised to run the "most transparent White House in history." where’s the transparency, Mr. President?