In the next few days, we will see the health care reform bills that the Senate and House have been cobbling together behind closed doors. In the Senate, the result of merging two bills, one from the Finance Committee and one from the Health Education Labor Pensions Committee, probably will not resemble either of the two original bills.
This makes a virtual sham out of the part of the process that was available to the public. All of those hours of televised debate that millions of Americans watched directly or saw through on TV news reports will soon be revealed to have been nothing but a kabuki dance, in the memorable words of Neil Cavuto.
Over in the House, no one has seen the merged version of the three-Committee bill there, but from remarks made by Speaker Pelosi in the last few days, it seems likely that there too, the final bill will not be any kind of midpoint among the three versions from the three committees, but rather something else entirely.
When the bills come to light next week, the focus of public attention will fall on the substance of the bills themselves. In the meantime, let's take a look at the process that produced them.
Exactly one year ago, as the Presidential campaign season wound down to its final week, there was a lot of talk about transparency. The idea that the legislative process should be clearly visible to the public was the subject of much pontificating by both candidates, but obviously the promises by Barack Obama are the ones that we should examine now. Let Freedom Ring found video of Candidate Obama on three separate occasions criticizing the Clintons in their handling of the health care bill crafting back in 1993. The central point in Obama's criticism was that they did it behind closed doors. He then promised that if he became President, quote, "I'm going to have all the negotiations around a big table. We'll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators.
Insurance companies, drug companies – they'll get a seat at the table; they just won't be able to buy every chair. But what we will do is, we'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies. And so, that approach, I think, is what is going to allow people to stay involved in this process."
These remarks were made at a meeting in Chester, Virginia on August 21st of last year. We created a specialty website that clearly presents these comments with what we hope is an easily-recalled name: Don'tShutUsOut.org. So if you go there, you will see for yourself how unambiguously he promised transparency as a Candidate.
Now that he has gone from Candidate Obama to President Obama, he has done precisely the opposite of what he promised. He has tacitly endorsed not one but two closed-door meetings, one in the House and one in the Senate. This is an extraordinary example of duplicity — promising one thing when running for office, then doing the opposite once elected. In fact, I'd argue that it's even worse than mere political duplicity: it reflects an implied contempt for the American people. Is it not contemptuous to treat them, or us, as fools who will fall for anything? Is it not contemptuous to refer to the citizens who turned out in hundreds of town hall meetings in the August recesses or the million or so who came to Washington on September 12 as angry mobs, when those citizens had in many cases actually read the healthcare bills more carefully than either the President or the members of the House and Senate?
The fact is that the President, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid have all shown contempt for the people and have conducted the health care legislative process deceitfully.
Let Freedom Ring is in favor of health care reform. We want to see improved access to health care, and we want to see genuine competition among health care insurers as the surest means of controlling costs. That's why we believe that the first step in genuine health care reform is to urge defeat of whatever bills come out of the devious and deceitful process that has consumed much of the past four months. Then, and only then, can a genuinely bipartisan and transparent process begin. A critical moment will occur in the next few weeks — that moment that will determine whether the Obama-Pelosi-Reid contempt for the American people will succeed or fail. It may be a cloture vote in the Senate.
It may be the decision to use the so-called nuclear option to use the mechanism of reconciliation as a dishonest means of avoiding a filibuster. Or it could be a vote in the House on the Senate bill. Whenever it is, that moment will be High Noon for Health Care, and that is when the American people must speak up with unity and clarity as they never have before.
A broad coalition of conservative groups has come together under the banner of High Noon for Health Care, and we urge all listeners of American Radio Journal to go to the High Noon for Health Care website to learn how and when to take the most effective actions to defeat the Obama-Pelosi-Reid bill and begin a truly transparent process that will lead to solving our health care cost and access problems without destroying the most effective and innovative health care system in the world.