C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb last week wrote to Congressional leaders asking that they "open all important negotiations, including any conference committee meetings, to electronic media coverage" as the House and Senate work to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate health care reform bills.
"The C-SPAN networks will commit the necessary resources to covering all of these sessions LIVE and in their entirety," Lamb wrote. "We will also, as we willingly do each day, provide C-SPAN’s multi-camera coverage to any interested member of the Capitol Hill broadcast pool."
Lamb reminded the leaders that "President Obama, Senate and House leaders, 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."
Specifically, then-Sen. Obama said on the campaign trail that "we'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so the people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents and who is making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies."
Last month President Obama told PBS about this final reconciliation between the House bill and the Senate bill, "we hope to have a whole bunch of folks over here in the West Wing, and I'll be rolling up my sleeves and spending some time before the full Congress even gets into session, because the American people need this now."
So, with that in mind, when I substitute-anchored This Week with George Stephanopoulos last month, I asked White House press secretary Robert Gibbs if president would take this final opportunity to open up the doors for this last negotiation. After all, the president will be in charge of it and it will be taking place at the West Wing.
Gibbs' response: "Well, Jake, first of all, let's take a step back and understand that this is a process legislatively that has played out over the course of nine months. There have been a countless number of public hearings. The Senate did a lot of their voting at 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning on C-SPAN. A lot of this debate — I think what the president promised and pledged was so that you could see who was fighting for their constituents and who was fighting for drug and insurance companies…"
But he was talking about negotiations, not voting, I interrupted. About the bill being put together.
"Well, but the bill gets put together on the floor of the Senate," Gibbs said. "That's where the bill got augmented. And I think if you watched that debate — I don't know — I wasn't up at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning for a lot of those votes, but I think if the American public had watched — has watched the committee process play out in both the House and the Senate, watched the process play out on both the floor and the — the floor of the House and the floor of the Senate, you'd have seen quite a bit of public hearing and public airing, and I think quite frankly, people have a pretty good sense of who is battling on behalf of thousands of lobbyists that are trying to protect drugs profits and insurance profits, and who's fighting on behalf of middle-class Americans hoping once and for all to have access to affordable insurance and removing insurance company restrictions like discriminating against people that are sick."