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January 05, 2010

C-SPAN: Hey, remember that open/transparent pledge?

C-SPAN this morning released the text of a letter its CEO Brian Lamb sent last week to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., prodding them to allow the cable/satellite public access provider to televise coverage of the final weeks of health care negotiations.

The Dec. 30, 2009, letter is on point as congressional Democrats appear to be moving to limit both Republican and public access to the House-Senate negotiation process on the massive health care rewrite. And while the letter isn't addressed to President Obama, it's a reminder that the president himself campaigned in 2008 on a pledge to negotiate a health care overhaul in public --- in fact, Obama said, he wanted it CARRIED ON C-SPAN --- a promise that he's backed away from as he and top White House officials participated in deal-cutting sessions behind closed doors.

Here's the Lamb letter to Pelosi/Boehner/Reid/McConnell:

"As your respective chambers work to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate health care bills, C-SPAN requests that you open all important negotiations, including any conference committee meetings, to electronic media coverage.

"The C-SPAN networks will commit the necessary resources to covering all of these sessions LIVE and in their entirety. We will also, as we willingly do each day, provide C-SPAN’s multi-camera coverage to any interested member of the Capitol Hill broadcast pool.

"Since the initial introduction of the America’s Affordable Health Care Act of 2009 in the House and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the Senate C-SPAN has televised literally hundreds of hours of committee hearings, mark ups and floor debate on these bills for the public to see. And importantly, we have archived all of this video for future generations to study in the C-SPAN Video Archives.

"President Obama, Senate and House leaders, many of your rank-and-file members, and the nation’s editorial pages have all talked about the value of transparent discussions on reforming the nation’s health care system. Now that the process moves to the critical stage of reconciliation between the Chambers, we respectfully request that you allow the public full access, through television, to legislation that will affect the lives of every single American.

"We hope you will give serious consideration to this request. We are most willing to employ the latest digital technology to make the cameras, lights and microphones as unobtrusive as possible.

"Please contact me if I can answer any questions.


"Brian Lamb"


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"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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