January 5, 2010

C-SPAN CEO to Congress: Let us in!

The CEO of C-SPAN has written a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate asking them to incorporate C-SPAN coverage into the health care deliberations.

I think you can safely file this one under "don't hold your breath."

Unfortunately, transparency is always supported in principle but is readily discarded when it would be inconvenient for those in charge.

Exhibit A: Obama promising to hold health care negotiations on C-SPAN.

"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."

- Town hall meeting on Aug. 21, 2008, in Chester, Va.

Instead of following through on that promise, however, the Administration secretly bought off potential opposition to their health care plans by making the very deals candidate Obama denounced.

While Obama rightfully deserves to be dinged for his behind-the-scenes deal making, blame falls on others as well.

Exhibit B: Ben Nelson's "Nebraska Compromise Buy-Off"

Imagine if Harry Reid was forced to gain Ben Nelson's vote live on C-SPAN. No more of this handshake nonsense behind closed doors.

While President Obama has rightly gotten much of the criticism this past year on his transparency record, Congress also needs to feel some heat here.

This discussions involve up to one-sixth of the American economy and, as President Obama promised, they should be held in the public arena.