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Democrats Nix C-SPAN Coverage of Health-Care Talks

They fear GOP will use it as another delaying tactic

Someone isn’t too anxious for the House-Senate conference committees that are hammering out the final details of the health-care reform package to be televised.

C-SPAN released a letter Tuesday that it had sent top legislative leaders late last month, offering to televise the negotiations. It was not so favorably received by Democratic leaders.

“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,” said the letter, sent by C-SPAN CEO Brian P. Lamb. “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 American.”

While not issuing a formal “no,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a statement on Tuesday, seemed to reject the idea.

The Republicans had used C-SPAN’s already extensive coverage of the reform debate in a “shameless transparent strategy,” he said, to try to postpone legislation using procedural delays. He expressed concern that they would use public coverage of the conference committee to try to further delay passage.

He did, however, suggest he would work with C-SPAN “to make sure deliberations … are transparent.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also expressed concern about TV being a forum for more delays, at a press conference. She did, however, add that C-SPAN coverage is “not excluded.”

House leaders added that it still isn’t clear if there will be a formal meeting of the conference committee at all.