House Democrats on Wednesday headed off a wide-ranging request by Republicans for documents on private meetings that White House officials had last year with doctors and other medical providers as health care legislation was being prepared.
And they did it using closed-door negotiations.
A bipartisan agreement reached among members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee would limit lawmakers' request to records detailing agreements the White House reached with provider groups. Republicans initially wanted a far broader range of documents, including e-mails between White House aides and industry officials.
"OK, we won't bang our heads against the wall if they'll give us some of this other stuff. We've got some places to begin exploring," said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, who led the GOP effort.
Lawmakers worked out their agreement in private conversations that delayed the committee's public session.
Republicans have accused President Barack Obama of not fulfilling his promise to conduct health care talks in public. They say they want to learn details about talks that led to last May's White House announcement that doctors, pharmaceutical companies and other health care providers had agreed to find about $2 trillion in health care savings over the coming decade.
Democrats say Obama has been far more open than his predecessor, President George W. Bush, and point to that administration's refusal to reveal details of secret deliberations by an energy task force headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. But amid public outrage over back-room deals used to win votes for the now-stalled health overhaul — such as extra federal aid for Nebraska and Louisiana — it would have been awkward for Democrats to block the GOP proposal completely.
Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said that while details remained to be worked out, he would support the narrowed GOP request for White House records. He said Democrats had consulted with White House officials in working out the agreement with committee Republicans.
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