Committee Steps Up Investigation Into Closed-Door Health Meetings
WASHINGTON, DC - Leaders of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee have sent letters to the top interest groups, lobbying associations, and companies involved in the closed-door negotiations during the writing of the massive health care law. The letters are the next phase of an investigation that began earlier this year with requests to the White House for information. The committee is seeking information from the interest groups as the administration's response thus far has been less than forthcoming, as the White House - which has repeatedly pledged to be the "most open and transparent administration in history" - has only provided a handful of press releases and incomplete visitor logs. The Energy and Commerce leaders are reaching out to twelve interest groups identified by the White House as having been at the White House during the secret health care negotiations.
On February 18, 2011, Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA), and Health Subcommittee Vice Chair Michael Burgess (R-TX) wrote to Nancy-Ann DeParle, former head of the White House Office of Health Reform, seeking basic information about that office and the meetings convened with various lobbying groups prior to passage of the health care law. White House Counsel Robert Bauer initially declined to cooperate with the committee's request, describing it as too "vast and expensive." The members followed up with Bauer on March 10 reiterating the importance of the congressional inquiry into the closed-door meetings in which the health care law was crafted. As the committee continues pressing the White House to fulfill its pledges for government transparency, the investigation has been broadened to seek documents and records directly from those organizations invited by the White House to help craft the law - behind closed doors, and without input from Congress.
A report by Politico last week underscores the questionable nature of White House record keeping, revealing that White House visitor logs do not provide an accurate account of who has actually visited the White House grounds. The White House's efforts to escape scrutiny by meeting with special interests groups at a neighboring Caribou Coffee are also well documented.
In addition to the letters, Reps. Upton, Stearns, Pitts, and Burgess issued the following statement:
"The yearlong negotiations leading up to the passage of the massive health overhaul involved numerous closed-door meetings between representatives of the administration and various special interest groups with significant financial interests in the legislation. This is in spite of President Obama's repeated promises to the American people to have "˜the most transparent Administration in history' and to broadcast all of the administration's health care reform meetings on C-SPAN.
"In the 112th Congress, our new Republican majority has undertaken the first serious review of the bill's effects on the American people. Like most back-room deals, the PPACA appears to have rewarded some interest groups who have the right connections - in this case to the Obama administration - while imposing huge financial burdens on the large swath of the American public who did not have special access to the White House.
"The most basic questions about how this law was crafted need to be answered. What proposals were discussed? What potentially useful proposals were never considered? What measures were discussed and then eliminated from consideration? What cost-saving measures were rejected? Why? What particular financial interests did the groups at the negotiating table have in the various proposals that were discussed? Were those proposals adopted or discarded? What deals did the administration strike with these special interest groups? The American public was not properly represented during the Executive Branch's frenzied backroom wheeling and dealing that circumvented the legislative process in order to pass the massive health overhaul. We remain vigilant in our efforts to restore representation under the Constitution and ensure that the public's interests are protected."
The committee members sent letters requesting information and documents to AARP, AdvaMed, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, American Hospital Association, America's Health Insurance Plans, American Medical Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Business Roundtable, Federation of American Hospitals, PhRMA, and SEIU.
Copies of the committee members' letters sent to the interest groups are available HERE.
Text of the committee members' March 10, 2011, letter to White House Counsel Robert Bauer is available HERE.
White House Counsel Robert Bauer's March 18, 2011, response can be found HERE.
Text of the committee members' February 18, 2011, letter to WHOHR head Nancy-Ann DeParle is available HERE.
Text of White House Counsel Robert Bauer's March 4, 2011, response to the DeParle letter is available HERE.