At a debate in Los Angeles on January 31, 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama said, "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, because part of what we have to do is enlist the American people in this process".
On August 21, 2008 at a Town Hall meeting in Chester, VA, presidential candidate Barack Obama said, "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, they just won't be able to buy every chair. But what we will do is, 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. And so, that approach, I think is what is going to allow people to stay involved in this process."
At 1 AM on Sunday, December 21, 2009, the Senate voted for cloture, ending further debate on the Senate health care bill. The Senate bill is being rushed to vote before Christmas, and is currently scheduled for 7PM on Christmas Eve.
Few negotiations have been televised on C-SPAN. Most have been held behind closed doors, as was the discussion with Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) that garnered in his vote for the bill in exchange for increased federal funding to cover his state's cost of paying for the expanded Medicaid population created by the bill.
In further disregard of public opinion, the bill being negotiated in the Senate includes a clause that requires a two-thirds vote to amend or repeal certain sections of the bill. Section 3403 of Senator Harry Reid's amendment (page 1020) states that "it shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment, or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection." Unfortunately, the subsection that it applies to deals with regulations imposed on doctors and patients by the Independent Medicare Advisory Boards a/k/a the Death Panels.
Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) pointed out this clause on the floor of the Senate Monday night. The video below is long, but it provides tremendous insight to the issues at hand.
Not only is this limitation unacceptable because it prevents changes to the health care bill once passed, but it also sets a precedent for using this tactic in the future. As Ed Morrissey points out in his article this morning, "The elected representatives of today should not have greater authority than those who will follow them. Any attempt to pass this into legislation aggrandizes the power of this Congress at the expense of those that follow.
And as DeMint points out, it sets a very dangerous precedent regardless of which party is in power. What will be next - a Republican Congress declaring any future bill that increases taxes out of order? Would Democrats sit still for that, too?"
Americans are still waiting for the transparency we were promised. Unfortunately, the change has already begun.