Boehner Requests, Receives, Then Criticizes Health Care Reform Transparency

Our guest blogger is Emma Sandoe, a Health Care Researcher at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Last week, House Minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) sent a letter to the White House with a list of requests for the February 25th bipartisan health care reform summit. In it, he asked the White House to post the text of a compromised bill online:

If the President intends to present any kind of legislative proposal at this discussion, will he make it available to members of Congress and the American people at least 72 hours beforehand? Our ability to move forward in a bipartisan way through this discussion rests on openness and transparency.

Well, the White House sent its official invites to Congressional leaders late Friday, and the text of the invite suggests that a final compromise between the House and Senate health bills will, in fact, be posted online prior to the meeting.

So according to Boehner’s statement from last week, this means there is an ability to move forward in a bipartisan way. But he apparently thinks differently now:

A productive bipartisan discussion should begin with a clean sheet of paper,” Boehner said in a statement. “We now know that instead of starting the ‘bipartisan’ health care ‘summit’ on Feb. 25 with a clean sheet of paper, the president and his party intend to arrive with a new bill written behind closed doors exclusively by Democrats — a backroom deal that will transform one-sixth of our nation’s economy and affect every family and small business in America.”

Boehner’s request shows the Republicans appear confused and once again have chosen obstruction over honest engagement. With its invite, the White House has adhered to several more of Boehner’s demands, including inviting the Congressional Budget Office and allowing additional staff and Congressional leaders to attend. Yet, the Republicans still aren’t assuaged.

While Boehner argues there is little point to meeting if the final bill has already been negotiated, consider the alternative. If Congressional leaders were to meet without any formal proposals, this discussion would become one regarding hypotheticals rather than concrete policies. By posting the a compromised bill online, Democrats and the White House are putting their cards on the table, hoping Republicans will show theirs as well. What will be posted online will not be a final bill. The White House would not post legislative language of a final House and Senate compromise, if such a compromise truly existed. Rather, what ends up online will likely be a series of proposed compromises, which could have the potential for improvement through honest negotiations, if the Republicans were willing.