By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Just as Congressional leaders began to leak news of their intention to bypass the traditional conference committee process for closed door negotiations on the final health care reform bill, the head C-SPAN issued a public challenge to Congress and the White House to allow television cameras into the meetings.
Fox News is reporting that C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb wrote a letter to leaders of both the House and Senate on Dec. 30 urging them to open “all important negotiations, including any conference committee meetings,” to public scrutiny via his network.
“The C-SPAN networks will commit the necessary resources to covering all of the sessions LIVE and in their entirety,” he wrote.
He went on to remind them that “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.”
It remains to be seen if the president will respond to the challenge and new calls to keep a campaign promise he made to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a televised debate in January, 2008.
“That’s what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are,” he said at that time.
The White House has made no comment about the matter and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs repeatedly dodged the question during yesterday’s daily briefing.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) laughed off similar questions from the press yesterday, intimating that the President made a lot of promises on the campaign trail that he hasn’t kept.
She added: “There has never been a more open process for any legislation.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Lamb continues to press for C-SPAN access, promising that the network will use the latest technology and be “as unobtrusive as possible” during the talks.
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