Make the Final Health Care Talks Public (Boehner Op-Ed on |
Republicans are continuing to insist on behalf of the American people that any legislative negotiations pertaining to health care reform be made public. Today, Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) is filing a discharge petition which, if signed by 218 Representatives, would force an up-or-down vote on his bipartisan resolution (H. Res. 847) requiring that health care talks be public and open to the media, as President Obama promised they would be.

We’re taking this step because something as important as the Democrats’ health care bill, with its Medicare cuts and tax hikes, should not be slapped together behind closed doors.  Secret deliberations are a breeding ground for mischief, including sweetheart deals that end up not being discovered until it’s too late (see: Sen. Ben Nelson’s “Cornhusker Kickback.”)

Of course, the American people should be able to see how every bill is coming together, but it’s even more important to adhere to this common-sense standard when we’re talking about transforming one-sixth of our economy and implementing drastic changes to the way in which Americans live.

I believe President Obama knows that, which is why he pledged on no fewer than eight occasions to hold public health care negotiations and broadcast them on C-SPAN.  He said it was important for the American people “to know what’s going on.”  Last week, C-SPAN called on congressional leaders to make good on President Obama’s pledge; countless editorial boards coast-to-coast issued similar pleas.

Still, negotiations continue behind closed doors among a handful of Washington Democrats and their liberal special interest allies, including the leaders of organized labor, who were brought into the White House earlier this week to talk health care.

Republicans believe the American people deserve a seat at the table, and this discharge petition to force a vote on Rep. Buchanan’s transparency resolution is our best shot to make it happen. I will sign it and I am urging all my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, to do the same.

Rep. Buchanan’s resolution is part of a transparency initiative Republicans first introduced in November to make Congress more open and accountable to the people it serves.  We are also calling for votes on the following reforms:

•   Read the bill. All bills should be posted online for a minimum of 72 hours before being brought to a vote on the House floor.
•   Show the votes. Members’ committee votes should be posted online within 48 hours so the American people can see how their representatives voted.
•   Ban “phantom amendments.” Committees should be required to post the text of adopted bills online within 24 hours of adoption to end the practice of “phantom amendments” being added to bills secretly after they pass at the committee level.
•   Bring sunlight to the Rules Committee.  Cameras should be allowed in the secretive House Rules Committee, the panel that decides which bills and amendments come to a vote.

Republicans will continue to insist on transparency so that every piece of legislation, no matter how big or small, is subject to the maximum amount of public scrutiny.  Learn more by visiting: /readthebill.