Judicial Watch Sues HHS to Obtain Documents Related to President Obama’s Closed-Door Health Care Meetings
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it filed a lawsuit against the Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to obtain documents related to President Obama’s closed-door health care meetings with Vice President Biden, HHS Secretary Sebelius, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and union officials in violation of a campaign promise to broadcast all health care discussions on C-SPAN.
According to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, filed on March 17, 2010:
At an August 21, 2008 town hall meeting in Chester Virginia, presidential candidate Barack Obama promised the nation that, to achieve health care reform, “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.”
In a startling breach of his campaign promise, between January 1, 2010, and January 15, 2010, President Obama, Vice President Biden, Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius, and White House Office of Health Reform Director DeParle met behind closed doors with various groups to reach accord on health care reform before a final vote occurred in the U.S. House of Representatives. One group of individuals was senior officials of major unions. A second group consisted of Senate Majority Leader Reid and House Speaker Pelosi and other members of Congress.
Because President Obama and Secretary Sebelius held closed door negotiations at the White House, the public was denied the transparency President Obama had promised as a candidate.
In order to try to restore some minimal degree of transparency to the negotiations, Judicial Watch filed its original Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on January 15, 2010. HHS acknowledged receipt of Judicial Watch’s request on January 19, 2010. On January 21, 2010, and March 12, 2010, HHS indicated that two offices within the agency found no responsive requests. However, the Immediate Office of the Secretary and the Office of the Secretary Scheduling Office have thus far failed to respond. As Judicial Watch noted in its FOIA lawsuit, these are the two offices within HHS most likely to have custody of the requested records.
“First President Obama breaks his promise on making health care negotiations public and now his administration is stonewalling the release of records from his secret health care meetings. The President and liberals in Congress are on the verge of staging a government takeover of our health care system, and the American people, at this key moment, are completely in the dark. This lawsuit is designed to hold President Obama to his promises of transparency. It is shameful that the Obama administration would violate FOIA law to help ensure passage of Obamacare,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.