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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Turn On The Cameras, Open The Doors

It is increasingly clear that Joe Wilson spoke some truth, not with much decorum but nonetheless his outburst as President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress is showing to be not far off the mark. Of course he could have been addressing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. This Gang of Three, Obama, Reid and Pelosi, are trampling all over their prior statements and pledges to the American people as they conspire to complete a health care reform bill.

Our nation is a republic, it is a nation governed by laws not by (wo)men. While the laws are crafted by elected representatives, signed by elected Executives and presided over by judges both elected and appointed by our elected representatives, it is the law that rules not those who create and enforce them. Today our republic is in transition to being a nation ruled not by law but by men, and one tough woman. And if they are successful our future will be changed, not only because of the changes in health care delivery and coverage for all future generations, but because of the precedent they will have set in ruling our country. Not governing but ruling.

As you have probably been aware both the House and Senate have now passed health care reform bills. Both were passed with the minimum of votes. In the House of Representatives one Republican, who is in office because he replaced a Democratic Representative arrested after $90,000 was found in his freezer and despite efforts by his party to save him ultimately gave up his seat in a district that is as deep blue with registered Democrats as you will find in America. In the Senate the bill passed despite never leaving Reid's office for a reading or public debate. Whoever on the Democrat side of the aisle spoke out against the bill and what may have been in it got a call from Reid's office and the White House and invited to a sit down. Most left with something nice for their state to buy their votes. Nebraska got their Medicaid deficits created by the bill covered and guaranteed by the Federal Treasury, Louisiana got a cap on Medicare premium increases for all recipients, current and future, Florida got guarantees that Medicare reimbursements for providers would not get cut and in some instances where providers in other states get cuts Floridian health care providers would get Medicare payment bumps. A vote in the middle of the night and it was "Here you go Mr. President a bill."

Throughout the debates Obama stayed out of the fray, publicly saying it was not his job to craft the legislation and to let the process work. Despite his constant rhetoric on the campaign trail about inclusive government, reaching across the aisle, open debate for Americans to see and experience, he said nothing of Reid's behind closed door meetings, nor members of his Administration arm-twisting Democrats to back any bill presented. In the end several closed door meetings with just the President and Democrats, if your registration says "GOP" you're not welcome, resulted in a bill.

And now we are on the precipice of, as defined by Obama and Reid and Pelosi, the most significant legislation to change America since Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s. Crafted behind closed doors. With legislative bribes used to gain passage. That an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose.

At this point the legislative process calls for a reconciliation of the two bills passed by the Senate and the House so one bill can be presented for passage by both. A Conference Committee is appointed by the leadership of the Senate and House, typically bi-partisan with membership determined by party representation in each chamber. Thus a Health Care Reform Conference Committee would consist of Senators and Representatives with a majority of each being Democrats; as is their right they have the majority in both houses as a result of the elections in 2008. This committee with argue and debate and trade and eventually should reach agreement and produce a bill--often not resembling at all the original bills presented. This bill is then voted up or down by both chambers and then presented to the President for signature and passage into law.

Small problem. The gaps between the two bills are so great that everyone appears dissatisfied. As evident as it was before that the purpose appears not to reform health care so much as to give the President a huge legislative victory before his first year in office is over, it is becoming more evident now. It is not about listening to the American people, or the members of their own party, for Obama, Reid and Pelosi; it is about passing any bill to say they passed monumental legislation reforming health care. Consequences be damned.

As evidence of this consider the plan being worked on by the Gang of Three to obviate the Conference Committee and instead work over members of their party behind closed doors and control the reconciliation process. Instead of having an open Conference Committee with representatives of both chambers of the legislature and both political parties, Obama, Reid and Pelosi are planning to shut out the opposition party and the American people and craft a new bill to gain passage. This is not about health care reform, this is about personal victory for narcissists ruling our country.

Promises of transparency from Pelosi in her campaign to gain Democratic majority in the House, promises of open leadership from Reid in his support of Obama's Presidential campaign, speech after speech by Obama about new day, and change, and transparency, and no more back room deals or governance by lobbyists. Rhetoric or deceit? You decide. In the meantime the representative elected by the American people are aiding and abetting their take-over of the government and disregard for the rules and laws which govern us. And complicit in the take-over is the majority of the American people who have elected those representatives. Will they continue their complicity in 2010? Will it be too late? Obama, Reid and Pelosi are betting it will be too late, that they can get to their fellow Democrats to pass their version, the Gang of Three version, of health care reform before the American people get to them in the ballot box in 2010.

I am not a Democrat, that should be pretty obvious by now. My Congressional Representative, Laura Richardson is, my two Senators, Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, are, the majority of my neighbors and fellow Californians are Democrats or historically vote that way. Will those neighbors and Californians that Richardson, Boxer, Feinstein and other Democrats in California depend on for votes and support contact their elected representatives and demand openness? Demand they tell Reid and Pelosi that the American people deserve and demand open debate on reconciliation of the health care bill that will not only change their lives but also their children and grandchildren? I am hopeful but doubtful.

In the end I'm just a guy in Long Beach, California with a laptop a teeny piece of space on the internet and lots of opinions. Opinions that are not too popular for many in my region but mine nonetheless. Hopefully however the American people who voted for Hope and Change and a new attitude in Washington will follow the lead of C-Span Chairman and CEO Brian Lamb who wrote our Congressional leaders asking that cameras be allowed to cover health care reconciliation. Hopefully other guys, and gals, across Long Beach, California and the United States with laptops and pencils and phones will contact their elected representatives and demand the same thing. Don't hide from us, don't forever change our country behind closed doors.

One can hope.

Here again is link to C-Span letter

UPDATE 3:00 PM 1/6/10: Here is collection of video showing then Senator Obama promising 8 times to have televised health care debates and transparency. Click here.


Bob Schilling said...

Conference Committee meetings, as far as I know, have never been public. Demanding a public reconciliation is an obvious ploy, part of the ongoing "kill the bill" campaign.

Second, the reason to put minority members on the Conference Committee is to gain or hold minority votes. Republicans have loudly declared that nothing will entice a single one of them to vote for the final bill, and they will do everything they can to stop it, regardless of its contents. Because of that, there is no reason to include them in the negotiations.

As for Joe Wilson, I can't believe than anyone with your demonstrated patriotism would have kind words for someone who publicly disrespected the President of the United States. Shame on you.

Dennis C Smith said...


As I said in the opening, except for the decorum of when and where he said it....public disrespect of the President was quite the vogue on the left side of the aisle for many years, using press rooms in the Capitol to call the President a liar and other pejoratives seemed popular with many and fine with the press. Wilson was out of line with his timing but I am not going to say his statement was inaccurate.

Conference committees are usually not public because usually they are on bills that are not that far off and certainly not as big as this one. Are you really okay with this being negotiated in secret? And what of Obama's statements "We will be open, we'll have hearings on C-Span?"