President Barack Obama’s campaign promise of an open government disappeared shortly after he took office and the closed-door, secret negotiations on health care reform demonstrate all too clearly that politics in Washington remain “business as usual” in his administration.
The secrecy that surrounds White House actions rivals that of the often-criticized administration of former President George W. Bush and key decisions on health care reform now are not being made in the open but in behind the scenes negations involving three Democratic Senators: Majority Leader Harry Reid, Christopher Dodd and Max Baucus.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is also participating in the secret sessions along with other members of the White House health care team: A far cry from the open door government that Obama promised while campaigning for office.
Washington Post staff writer Perry Bacon Jr. reports that the closed door sessions are “a setting that is anything but revolutionary in Washington.”
The group will make such key decisions as whether to include a government-run insurance plan designed to compete with private insurance companies. The bill passed in July by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which Dodd led while Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) was ailing, included such a provision, but the legislation passed last week by Baucus’s Finance Committee did not.
The secret sessions are a far cry from promises Obama made 90 days before the election when he said “I’m going to have all the negotiations around a big table,” adding that the negotiations would be “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.”
Republicans, of course, are not happy with the secrecy:
“This bill is being written in the dark of night,” House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio told the Post. “The president ought to keep his promise to the American people and open this process up.”
Few in Washington expect that to happen.