Burr Signs Letter Calling for Transparency in Health Care Negotiations

U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) yesterday signed a letter sent to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) urging him to make the health care negotiations transparent moving forward.The letter addresses the lack of openness in health care discussions thus far and encourages the Majority Leader to make good on promises to allow the American people a seat at the table in the upcoming negotiations between the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.

"Despite promises of openness made by both the President and the Majority Leader, this process has been characterized by a lack of transparency from the start," Senator Burr said."Meetings have not been taking place in committee rooms or other open forums aired on C-SPAN. Instead, they have taken place behind closed doors, keeping most of Congress and the American people in the dark.

"Health care reform will affect every single American, and it is time we let the sunshine in and have an open debate about the contents of whatever deals are being made."

The letter was signed by all 40 Republicans in the Senate.Its text is below.

Dear Majority Leader Reid:

As you know, the American public has been paying close attention to the health care debates in both chambers of Congress. This important issue affects one-sixth of the American economy, and the changes made by Congress will affect every American family, individual, and business for years to come. Previous rhetoric about transparency has thus far amounted to broken promises to the American people.

In the coming weeks, we ask for increased transparency in the process of merging the House-passed bill and the Senate-passed bill. Closed door negotiations and unprecedented special provisions in exchange for votes do not meet the expectations of the American people. Numerous Senators have reiterated the need for transparency and the President himself noted in August of 2008 that:

"I'm going to have all the negotiations around a big table. We'll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. Insurance companies, drug companies -- they'll get a seat at the table, they just won't be able to buy every chair. But what we will do is, we'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies. And so, that approach, I think is what is going to allow people to stay involved in this process."

To ensure that the American people have the ability to witness the on-going negotiations between the House and Senate, we ask that any negotiations regarding a final health care reform bill be conducted in the light of day. The Chairman of C-SPAN, the network responsible for broadcasting the deliberations of Congress, has offered resources to cover all negotiation sessions live. We urge you to take him up on this offer.

We look forward to your response and the commitment that the American people can expect full transparency as you work with Speaker Pelosi and White House officials to merge the House and Senate-passed health care bills.