Senior White House officials were “involved in negotiating and approving” a deal with the pharmaceutical industry to win its backing for a government takeover of health care that is now making it harder for small businesses to hire workers, a new House Energy & Commerce Committee memo reveals.
The staff memo, released to the public a short while ago, is part of an ongoing investigation into what insider deals were struck in the writing of ObamaCare, and whether policy outcomes were traded for public support. The pharmaceutical industry (PhRMA) agreement was announced with much White House fanfare in the summer of 2009 and industry lobbyists “huddled” with Democratic staffers in the final push to jam the bill through Congress. Details of the White House’s role in the agreement and its contents were largely elusive, leading the committee to announce an investigation last year. Its findings to date, detailed in this memo, include an e-mail from then-White House deputy chief of staff (now President Obama’s campaign manager) Jim Messina to a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry, which explicitly invokes the existence of a “deal.”
The memo also reveals that administration officials knowingly kept the House, controlled by the president’s own party at the time, out of the talks. “I think we should have included the House in these discussions, but maybe we never would have gotten anywhere if we had,” Office of Health Reform director Nancy Ann DeParle wrote in an e-mail to a PhRMA representative. Then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was also pivotal in securing a deal, the memo states.
The White House’s secrecy about the process extends to the agreement itself, the specifics of which were not made available to the public and news organizations. “In the coming weeks,” the memo states, “the Committee intends to show what the White House agreed to do as part of its deal with the pharmaceutical industry and how the full details of the agreement were kept from both the public and the House of Representatives.”
The American people will be interested in those findings, especially in light of the president’s promise to conduct public and televised health care talks. Instead, the White House cut a string of backroom deals with special interests and reluctant lawmakers. Mounting public unrest with the lack of transparency, and the prospect that the bill would not lower costs or protect coverage as promised, led then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi to infamously pronounce, “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
We now know the American people got a bad deal from ObamaCare, which is making it harder for small businesses across America to hire new workers. That is why, in keeping with the Pledge to America, the House has taken nearly 30 votes to repeal, defund, and dismantle this health care law. But what kind of deal did the White House and PhRMA get? The Committee’s investigation is ongoing.