U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice President Bruce Josten and America's Health Insurance Plans Vice President Mike Tuffin tell 'Fox News Sunday' the administration is in a campaign to shut out criticism on health care reform.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
President Obama is not living up to his pledge to hold an open debate over health care reform and is engaged in a "public relations campaign" to penalize critics, representatives from two industry groups in the administration's cross hairs said Sunday.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice President Bruce Josten and America's Health Insurance Plans Vice President Mike Tuffin told "Fox News Sunday" that they will continue to raise questions about the health care reforms plans working their way through Congress. But they decried the "name-calling" they said was coming out of the White House.
"There shouldn't be a penalty for speaking out and introducing data into the public domain," Tuffin said. "There's been a political, public relations campaign run against people who put data out that says specific provisions are going to increase cost."
Tuffin's group absorbed sharp criticism earlier in the month when it released a report criticizing health care reform ahead of a key vote on the Senate Finance Committee. The group claims efforts to weaken penalties for not getting insurance will encourage people to wait until they fall sick to get covered.
Meanwhile, administration officials have tried to do an end-run around the Chamber of Commerce, which has also opposed health care reform proposals, by dealing directly with members and publicly criticizing the group.
Josten said the administration was keeping a tight grip on debate.
"Being invited to auditoriums with 130 to 150 people where the president comes and gives prepared remarks, calls on a couple people in the audience, is not a consultative outreach," he said. "That's not an exchange of ideas."
However, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has agreed to address a dinner for Chamber leaders on Nov. 4.
"We appreciate the Chamber reaching out to the White House," said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki in a written statement Saturday. "While we have big disagreements on issues like energy and financial regulatory reform, we want to work together on areas where there is agreement like creating jobs."
Josten said he was glad Emanuel accepted and said the address will give him the chance to "hear back" from Chamber members. But he said his group would "stay focused."
"We haven't raised up the Cain. It came from their side of the street," he said. "We're not going to take the bait and engage in a name-calling campaign."