The Health Care Debate on C-SPAN

Today, President Obama began to fulfill the promise that health care legislation would be hashed out on C-SPAN. His discussion with congressional leaders was broadcast on that cable channel and streamed live on the Internet. The nearly six-and-a-half hour-long meeting began to touch on many of the issues at stake in the health care area. 

I’ll leave observations about the merits to our experts, who live-blogged the morning session. I found a few things interesting from a transparency perspective:

The format was far more conducive to productive discussion than procedures for “debate” in Congress. What generally happens in the House and Senate is display of members’ and senators’ well-settled views.  So today interested Americans could get a real sense of the issues and how their representatives think about them.

There seemed to be a division between representatives who knew the technical subject matter and those who—for lack of a better phrase—knew the emotional subject matter. Surprisingly astute commentaries on fiscal realities were met with appeals to the story of one constituent or another—or of members’ own families’ health predicaments.

Though there was much talking past one another, these are all good things to see. It will inform the public, and a better informed public will make better decisions about health care legislation, about individual representatives, and about the proper role of government. 

I know how I feel about these things. (I’m soft-pedaling my views here as hard as I can…) My opinions didn’t change, though I adopted new nuances to my thinking.

It’s doubtful that many people’s opinions will change. But I’m confident that a more open process will lead to better results in many senses: specific policy results; electoral activity; and people’s overall sense of the role of government.

Today’s meeting only scratched the surface, of course. Sessions like this in the days and weeks to come will do more to improve the transparency of the lawmaking process, in this issue and hopefully others. Today’s transparency precedent is something that the president and federal lawmakers should not retreat from.