C-SPAN Challenges Congress to Open Health Care Talks to TV Coverage

Daily News Article   —   Posted on January 6, 2010

(from Foxnews.com) — The head of C-SPAN has [asked] Congress to open up the last leg of health care reform negotiations to the public, as top Democrats lay plans to hash out the final product among themselves.

C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb wrote to leaders in the House and Senate Dec. 30 urging them to open “all important negotiations, including any conference committee meetings,” to televised coverage on his network.

“The C-SPAN networks will commit the necessary resources to covering all of the sessions LIVE and in their entirety,” he wrote.

In a Tuesday afternoon press conference on health legislation negotiations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared to object to the premise behind the request.

“There has never been a more open process for any legislation in anyone who’s served here’s experience,” she said.

However, Republican leaders sided with C-SPAN’s calls for transparency.

“As House Republican leader, I can confidently state that all House Republicans strongly endorse your proposal and stand ready to work with you to make it a reality,” Minority Leader John Boehner wrote in response to the letter. “Hard-working families won’t stand for having the future of their health care decided behind closed doors. These secret deliberations are a breeding ground for more of the kickbacks, shady deals and special-interest provisions that have become business as usual in Washington.”

Democratic leaders could bypass the traditional conference committee process, in which lawmakers from both parties and chambers meet to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of a bill. Top Democrats in the House, Senate and White House were meeting Tuesday evening to figure out the final product in three-way talks before sending it back to both chambers for a final vote.

“We don’t even know yet whether there’s going to be a conference,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen said responding to a question about the C-SPAN request. “It’s not clear whether or not that’s going to happen yet.”

This format would seem ideal for closed-door meetings, which congressional Democrats have used many times to figure out sensitive provisions in the health care bill — though President Obama pledged during the campaign to open up health care talks to C-SPAN’s cameras.

“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,” Obama said at a debate against Hillary Clinton in Los Angeles on Jan. 31, 2008.

Asked about the request to Congress, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he hadn’t seen the letter.

“I know the president is going to begin discussions today on health care to iron out differences between the House and Senate bills,” he said.

Lamb urged Congress in his letter to fling open the doors in the final stretch of the negotiations.

“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,” he wrote. “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.”

Lamb said his network would use “the latest technology” to be “as unobtrusive as possible” during the talks.

Article originally posted at FoxNews.com on January 6, 2010. Reprinted here Jan. 6th for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from FoxNews. Visit the website at FoxNews.com.

Questions

1. What is CSPAN’s mission? (see “Background” below)

2. What has CSPAN CEO Brian Lamb asked Congress to do?

3. Who was Mr. Lamb’s letter sent to? (see link to the letter in “References” below)

4. A) Who is Nancy Pelosi?
b) How has Mrs. Pelosi responded to CSPAN’s request?

5. What is the traditional process the House and Senate use to come to an agreement on the final version of a bill to be made into law?

6. What did President Obama promise to do with health care talks when he was running for office?

7. a) Re-read part of Mr. Lamb’s request from paragraph 15. How do you think Congress should respond to this request? Explain your answer.
b) Ask a parent the same question.

8. a) The health care bill about to be passed into law by the Democrats in Congress will have a huge and lasting impact on all Americans. Why do you think Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid do not want the final conference committee negotiations to be made public for all Americans to see?
b) Ask a parent the same question.


Free Answers — Sign-up here to receive a daily email with answers.

Background

C-SPAN:
C-SPAN is a private, non-profit company, created in 1979 by the cable television industry as a public service. Our mission is to provide public access to the political process. C-SPAN receives no government funding; operations are funded by fees paid by cable and satellite affiliates who carry C-SPAN programming. (from cspan.org)

ON HOW A BILL BECOMES A LAW:
Once the House and the Senate both pass a bill, it then moves on to a conference committee, which is made up of members from each House. The committee works out any differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The revised bill is sent back to both houses for their final approval. Once approved, the bill is printed by the U.S. Government Printing Office…. The clerk from the introducing house certifies the final version.  The enrolled bill is now signed by the Speaker of the House and then the vice president. Finally, it is sent for presidential consideration. The president has ten days to sign or veto the enrolled bill. If the president vetoes the bill, it can still become a law if two-thirds of the Senate and two-thirds of the House then vote in favor of the bill. (from bensguide.gpo.gov)

ON CONFERENCE COMMITTEES:
A conference committee is a committee of the Congress appointed by the House of Representatives and Senate to resolve disagreements on a particular bill. The conference committee is usually composed of the senior Members of the standing committees of each House that originally considered the legislation. (from wikipedia.org)

Resources

Read the procedure for how a bill becomes a law at bensguide.gpo.gov.

Put the steps in order for how a bill becomes a law here

Read C-SPAN’s letter to Congress at cspan.org/pdf/C-SPAN%20Health%20Care%20Letter.pdf.

Watch a video of candidate Obama promising to permit C-SPAN to televise the health care reform negotiations: