C-SPAN Wants In, Boehner Says Aye

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John Boehner, for one, is all for C-SPAN’s cameras being allowed in to the health care reform reconciliation debate. The Ohio Republican and House Minority Leader issued a press release ”strongly endorsing” C-SPAN’s pitch and slamming Democratic foes in the process.

“Democratic leaders continue to indicate they will shut the American people out and write a final bill behind closed doors,” writes Boehner. “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. Too much is at stake to have a final bill built on payoffs and pork-barrel spending.”

So far, Boehner is the only member of the Congressional leadership to respond to a Dec. 30 letter sent by C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb making a case for live coverage of all aspects of the reconciliation debate. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said during a Jan. 5 press briefing that he had not even seen the letter.

Depending on your point of view, C-SPAN is either the documenter of stultifying legislative minutiae or an essential conduit to our government in action. And while many committee hearings can indeed be mind-numbing, the good bits when members cut each other off or drag babies to the chamber floor to make a point provide entertaining and revealing fodder for the wider news cycle.

Given the heretofore vitriol of the health care reform debate and the widening gulf between Democrats and Republicans, C-SPAN can be excused for anticipating a barn burner.

Throw open the chamber doors!

UPDATED: Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that Boehner’s backing of C-SPAN was a “shamelessly transparent strategy to stop reform at all costs by relying on misinformation and myths. Their ploys are broadcast on C-SPAN for all of America to see, as much of it happens on the Senate floor.”

Manley did not address the C-SPAN request directly in his statement, but said: “Senator Reid appreciates C-SPAN’s commitment to ensuring transparency and we will continue to work to ensure that the American people have access to the work of their elected representatives.”

Manley’s full statement is below:

“Senator Reid appreciates C-SPAN’s commitment to ensuring transparency and we will continue to work to ensure that the American people have access to the work of their elected representatives.

“The drafting of this health insurance reform bill has set new standards for transparency. As the C-SPAN letter states, there have been ‘literally hundreds of hours of committee hearings, mark ups and floor debate on these bills’ - and every one of those hours was broadcast across the country.

“The HELP Committee held a televised markup that lasted more than 13 days, and in which it accepted 161 Republican amendments. The Finance Committee then marked up their bill for eight days - the longest in 22 years - and each of those meetings was similarly broadcast. The Committee posted the Chairman’s mark of the bill online six days earlier. The full text of the substitute amendment and the Congressional Budget Office’s assessment were both available online for weeks.

“But what should truly concern the American people is the Republicans’ shamelessly transparent strategy to stop reform at all costs by relying on misinformation and myths. Their ploys are broadcast on C-SPAN for all of America to see, as much of it happens on the Senate floor. For example, at the beginning of the floor debate Senator Reid asked consent from Senate Republicans to file all amendments in advance and post them on the Internet, but the Republican Leadership refused this request. During consideration of the Sanders amendment, Republicans publicly made clear they would use procedural games to turn ‘transparency’ into a tactic of delay and obstruction.

“Just as our health reform bill will create a more open health insurance system - transparency that will save lives and money and stop insurance company abuses - we are committed to transparency in the legislative process. We will continue to ensure that the Congress and the public will have ample opportunity to see and evaluate health insurance reform legislation before it moves to final passage.”

UPDATED: Congress has decided not to take the health care reform bills in the House and Senate to committee, so there is essentially nothing for C-SPAN to film.

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