White House Silent on Obamacare Transparency Bill

Lachlan Markay /

A freshman congressman has offered legislation that would make the extensive federal rulemaking process associated with the new Obamacare law dramatically more transparent. The bill would also give Congress a stepped-up oversight role as federal agencies begin drafting rules to implement the law, which will go fully into effect by 2014.

In fact, both the purpose and letter of the Creating Sunshine, Participation, and Accountability for Our Nation Act (H.R. 1432) align well with President Obama’s stated concern for transparency in federal rulemaking.

The bill, introduced by Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) would:

  1. Require all rules relating to Obamacare to be created in formal rulemaking processes, rather than through the less formal notice-and-comment process;
  2. Require that a Senate-confirmed official preside over all such processes;
  3. Allow press access to all Obamacare-related rulemaking procedures.

Schweikert claims that his bill works toward the president’s own stated belief in political transparency and openness.

“This legislation picks up the pieces of the Administration’s broken promises on ObamaCare transparency and makes it a reality,” he said in a statement. “American families and job creators, who are forced to comply with ObamaCare’s detrimental regulations, deserve to know what goes on behind closed doors.”

The first of the three provisions would establish a high standard for rulemaking. That process, described in detail in sections 556 and 557 of the Administrative Procedure Act, is far more extensive than the notice-and-comment process. It also places a heavier burden on the agency proposing the rule.

The second of Schweikert’s bill’s three provisions would step up scrutiny of any such hearing by placing a prominent federal official at its helm. It would also prohibit any of the president’s unelected “czars” from presiding over a rulemaking process, since by definition those officials are not confirmed by the Senate. The bill would therefore work toward more congressional oversight of the rulemaking process.

Notably, this provision would also prevent Obama’s controversial Department of Medicare and Medicaid Services chief Dr. Donald Berwick from presiding over any Obamacare rulemaking hearing.

The bill’s third provision, more than the other two, addresses promises made by the president and his allies. Even the bill’s acronym – CSPAN – is a way to point out Obama’s failure to live up to his own transparency pledge – both on the health care issue, and on federal rulemaking generally.

Schweikert’s office notes that the White House had not contacted them expressing any view on the legislation, despite it being almost two months since he introduced the bill. Nor did the White House press office return inquiries about their stance on the legislation.