No prying public eyes. No media. No Congressional Record.
That’s the reality of today’s "closed" Senate Finance Committee hearing. The secret meeting is not even noticed on the committee website.
According to the rules committee, closed committee sessions are very rare except for discussions of national security. See the rule below — there does not appear to be any basis for today’s private hearing, other than that the committee members don’t want you to know what they’re saying.
Why do we care about what the Senate Finance Committee is talking about behind those locked doors? Well, the discussion today is about whether every American will be required to buy health insurance policies with no oversight of what insurers can charge. Wouldn’t you like to know what they’re saying about what you’ll be required to buy? What if I told you that the plan would require you to show proof of health insurance on your tax return or face hefty tax penalties?
In a letter sent today to Senator Baucus, chair of the Finance Committee, I wrote:
"Americans should not be locked out of any discussion about health
care reform, particularly one that will consider whether everyone
should be required to buy health insurance policies without any limits
on what insurers can charge. Mandatory purchases of private insurance
policies without offering a public alternative to the private market is
nothing other than a bailout for HMOs—whose greed, waste and
indifference to our health have created the current mess."
Standing Rules of the Senate – RULE XXVI – Committee Procedure
5. (b) Each meeting of a committee, or any subcommittee thereof, including meetings to conduct hearings, shall be open to the public, except that a meeting or series of meetings by a committee or a subcommittee thereof on the same subject for a period of no more than fourteen calendar days may be closed to the public on a motion made and seconded to go into closed session to discuss only whether the matters enumerated in clauses (1) through (6) would require the meeting to be closed, followed immediately by a record vote in open session by a majority of the members of the committee or subcommittee when it is determined that the matters to be discussed or the testimony to be taken at such meeting or meetings
(1) will disclose matters necessary to be kept secret in the interests of national defense or the confidential conduct of the foreign relations of the United States;
(2) will relate solely to matters of committee staff personnel or internal staff management or procedure;
(3) will tend to charge an individual with crime or misconduct, to disgrace or injure the professional standing of an individual, or otherwise to expose an individual to public contempt or obloquy, or will represent a clearly unwarranted invasion of the privacy of an individual;
(4) will disclose the identity of any informer or law enforcement agent or will disclose any information relating to the investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense that is required to be kept secret in the interests of effective law enforcement;
(5) will disclose information relating to the trade secrets of financial or commercial information pertaining specifically to a given person if
(A) an Act of Congress requires the information to be kept confidential by Government officers and employees; or
(B) the information has been obtained by the Government on a confidential basis, other than through an application by such person for a specific Government financial or other benefit, and is required to be kept secret in order to prevent undue injury to the competitive position of such person; or
(6) may divulge matters required to be kept confidential under other provisions of law or Government regulations.