Bloggers on the right are rallying behind a C-SPAN request to videotape any health bill proceedings following yesterday’s news that Democratic lawmakers may not hold formal conference committee negotiations to merge the House- and Senate-passed health overhaul measures.
C-SPAN delivered the unusual request (in letter form) to Congressional leaders on Dec. 30th, asking that meetings to combine the two versions be open and added to the “hundreds of hours of committe hearings, mark ups and floor debate … archived for future generations to study in the C-SPAN video archives.”
It looks like it could be another losing battle for Republicans, as NPR’s Scott Hensley reports, “Routine appropriations conferences have been televised, NPR’s Julie Rovner tells us, but she puts the odds of the overhaul nitty-gritty being done in public at just about zero. The work could be messy and it won’ t be orthodox. All signs point to most of the negotiations happening informally.”
Peter Suderman of the libertarian Reason agrees with Rovner that such a broadcast is unlikley, but says its “pretty disappointing” because “we’ll miss out on the historical record, which is both useful (in terms of understanding the legislative process) and interesting (as political narrative). That’s important for any bill, and it’s especially a bill of this size, with this sort of transformational impact. When future generations — or, hell, current generations — ask how we got the system we have, we’ll be able to tell part of the story, but when it comes to the end, we’ll simply have to speculate, or shrug our shoulders in confusion, as crucial details from the final days of negotiating will be missing.”
Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey quips, “This, then, is transparency as defined by Democrats: votes in the dead of night, committee processes that produce strawman bills, and Senators scurrying from camera lenses to dole out favors and cash to one another.”
Meanwhile, Jeff Davis in The New Republic identifies another reason Democrats may want to avoid conference: a rule in the 2007 ethics bill that dictates what can be added (or subtracted) in a conference committee. Davis says, “Don’t expect to see any more conference committees on controversial party-line bills. Ever.”
And Austin Frakt offers a list of items to watch during the negotiations, like the penalty on employers for not providing health insurance and whether the Medicare “doughnut hole” in the prescription drug benefit will be closed.