Congressional leaders are getting criticism for fast-tracking health care legislation behind closed doors, bypassing the usual negotiations between the House and Senate in an open conference committee.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina is among those leaders. Whitehouse Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says the President wants to get a bill on his desk as soon as possible.
The Associated Press reports that House members will work off the Senate’s version, amend it and send it back to the Senate for final passage.
Some Republicans are now accusing President Obama and Democrats of operating in secret. Democrats deny that.
South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson emphasizes that it’s a closed door meeting. “This is unprecedented,” says Wilson. “It won’t be a conference committee in the traditional sense of Democrats and Republicans coming together and ironing out the differences. The Democrats have taken a route which excludes Republicans, done behind closed doors.”
Wilson is especially upset because he says Democratic leadership assured everyone that the bill would be openly discussed. “I’m glad that C-SPAN, which is non-partisan, has challenged what it going on,” says Wilson. “C-SPAN President Brian Lamb has asked the Democrats to live up to their promises where they said the conference committee would be covered by C-SPAN live. What’s happening is that in smoke-filled rooms the important health care plan is being discussed, but only by one political party.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham says he hopes that a public outcry can still stop the bill. Graham wants health care reform but says the current bill is a bad idea. “I’m trying to impress upon the citizens of South Carolina that if this bill becomes law it will be devastating to health care choice,” says Graham. “It will add hundreds of billions of dollars to our national debt. If this passes 80 percent of Americans will be in some form of government-run health care.”
“I don’t mind everyone being covered,” said Graham. “But let them buy their health care in the private sector and use the tax code to help them make those purchases. You’re taking $480 billion dollars out of Medicare at a time when it’s going broke. You’re increasing taxes by $500 billion and we’ve still got a chance to stop it.”