GOP Rep. Seeks Documents on Health Care Deals

A House Republican is trying to shine a light on the backroom deals that permeated health care reform negotiations, calling on the Obama administration to turn over its records detailing the behind-the-scenes talks on the proposed overhaul. 

But even though President Obama acknowledged in an interview this week that the process has not been transparent enough, Rep. Michael Burgess' push for sunshine may just hit a wall. 

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to take up the Texas Republican's resolution calling for the documents Wednesday afternoon. So far, the resolution has no co-sponsors, and Burgess spokeswoman Lauren Bean said the measure is expected to fail in committee. 

"They're protecting the White House," she said. Bean said committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., has been trying to help Burgess obtain documents from the negotiations through other means, but that the resolution is unlikely to win approval. 

Burgess first tried to get his hands on negotiation documents in late September, when he wrote to Obama asking for them. He specifically mentioned negotiations with major industry groups that led to an announcement last May that they would reduce spending by $2 trillion over 10 years. 

The resolution appears to be worded more broadly, seeking documents pertaining to those negotiations and potentially others. 

Supposed backroom deals on health care have caused problems for Democrats. Some Democrats even cited that concern after Democrat Martha Coakley lost the Massachusetts special election for U.S. Senate last week. 

Among the questionable deals was a commitment to Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, which he later renounced, to give extra federal funding to his state for Medicaid patients, and a deal with the major labor unions two weeks ago to exempt them for several years from a tax on high-cost insurance plans. 

Obama, in an interview with ABC News, said he "didn't make a bunch of deals" on health care reform. But Obama, who during the campaign pledged to televise health care talks on C-SPAN, acknowledged the process has not been as transparent as it could have been, calling the failure a "mistake." 

"We had to make so many decisions quickly in a very difficult set of circumstances that after awhile, we started worrying more about getting the policy right than getting the process right," Obama said. "But I had campaigned on process. ... Part of what I had campaigned on was changing how Washington works, opening up transparency and I think it is -- I think the health care debate as it unfolded legitimately raised concerns not just among my opponents, but also amongst supporters that we just don't know what's going on. And it's an ugly process and it looks like there are a bunch of backroom deals." 

Bean said the White House has turned over some health care documents, but said they were not what Burgess was seeking.