May 16, 2012- by Philip Klein
Three years ago, President Obama cut a secret deal with pharmaceutical company lobbyists to secure the industry’s support for his national health care law. Despite Obama’s promises during his campaign to run a transparent administration, the deal has been shrouded in mystery ever since. But internal emails obtained by House Republicans now provide evidence that a deal was struck and GOP investigators are promising to release more details in the coming weeks.
“What the hell?” White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, who is now Obama’s campaign manager, complained to a lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) in January 15, 2010 email. “This wasn’t part of our deal.”
This reference to “our deal” came two months before the final passage of Obamacare in an email with the subject line, “FW: TAUZIN EMAIL.” At the time, Billy Tauzin was president and CEO of PhRMA.
The email was uncovered as part of investigation into Obama’s closed-door health care negotiations launched by the House Energy and Commerce committee’s oversight panel.
“In the coming weeks the Committee intends to show what the White House agreed to do as part of its deal with the pharmaceutical industry and how the full details of this agreement were kept from both the public and the House of Representatives,” the committee’s Republican members wrote in a memo today.
On June 20, 2009, Obama released a terse 296-word statement announcing a deal between pharmaceutical companies and the Senate that didn’t mention any involvement by the White House.
“The investigation has determined that the White House, primarily through Office of Health Reform Director Nancy Ann DeParle and Messina, with involvement from Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, was actively engaged in these negotiations while the role of Congress was limited,” the committee members wrote. “For example, three days before the June 20 statement, the head of PhRMA promised Messina, ‘we will deliver a final yes to you by morning.’ Meanwhile, Ms. DeParle all but confirmed that half of the Legislative Branch was shut out in an email to a PhRMA representative: ‘I think we should have included the House in the discussions, but maybe we never would have gotten anywhere if we had.’”