The making of sausage does not make for great television, yet President Barack Obama suggested so many times during his campaign for the White House that the negotiations over health care would be broadcast on C-SPAN that the closed-door talks underway now might cause some a lot of indigestion.
“It will be streaming over the Net,” Obama once promised of the talks. “The American people will be able to watch these negotiations.”
What the public has gotten to see is hours of talk, not really negotiation or even real debate for that matter, but rather speechifying among the ranks of lawmakers supporting the president’s plans and the opponents attempting to block them. The real deals, the ones that Pharma and the White House made to set the boundaries of cost conrols, the ones that have given states certain benefits to win the buy-in of reluctant senators, have been made the old-fashioned way, behind closed doors.
The House and Senate floors were available on C-SPAN.
But the final talks unfolding now, such as those the other night among the president and Senate and House Democratic leaders at the White House or those yesterday among the president and House leaders at the White House, are backstage affairs.
C-SPAN has asked leaders to make good on that promise of televised negotiations, with a formal request made to legislative leaders last week. But the talks are at a stage now where no one is willing to forfeit a bill for stagecraft, even if it means fulfilling an often-stated campaign pledge. For the White House, the main pledge was delivering reform. The revolution may be televised, but the health-care conference won’t be.
The president is trying to “iron out the differences that remain between the House and the Senate bill and try to get something hopefully to his desk quite quickly,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters this week.
“”The president’s No. 1 priority is getting the differences worked out, getting a bill to the House and the Senate,” Gibbs said. “We’ve filled your newspaper and many others with the back-and-forth and the details of what’s in these bills. I don’t want to keep that from continuing to happen. I don’t think there’s anybody that would say that we haven’t had a thorough, robust, now spanning two calendar years’ debate on health care.”
Does the president regret those campaign trail promises about negotiating the bill on C-SPAN, the press secretary was asked?