Monday, January 4, 2010

Next Step for Health Care Reform ?
As I had reported a while back (and many disputed)
Get Ready for some PING-PONG !

Dems Will Bypass Conference Committee
To Get Health Care Passed

Article by Sam Stein

Both chambers of Congress will skip a formal "conference committee" and instead negotiate informally on their respective health care bills, confirm Congressional aides and sources outside of government.

In what one health care reform activist calls a "quasi ping-pong" strategy, House and Senate leaders will each have a set of negotiators bounce variations of health care legislation back and forth until the disagreements between the two chambers are hammered out.

"Absent a stunning turn of events, it's true," said one Senate aide. "All of the motions that we need to go into conference with the House are amendable and debatable."

The basis for negotiations will be the Senate bill (which lacks a public option for insurance coverage and contains a tax on expensive health care plans), to which the House can add amendments.

"It doesn't preclude us from making major changes," explained one House Democratic aide. "We would basically be voting on the 'amendment'. But the amendment wouldn't be a two-page bill. It could be the entire bill itself." The House will hold a caucus meeting this week (with out-of-town members calling in over the phone) to begin discussing priorities for these negotiations.

The decision to skip formal conference negotiations -- which was first reported by The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn -- is not, it should be noted, the rarest of parliamentary maneuvers. Hill aides say it often happens with major or contentious pieces of legislation (though not apparently in this current Congress). "This is what we normally do," said one Hill aide, "it is pretty standard."

The goal, in the end, is to expedite the congressional process by keeping it removed from Republican procedural shenanigans. By skipping a formal conference committee, for example, Democrats can avoid dealing with motions to recommit on contentious issues (whether they be Medicare cuts, late-life consultation, abortion or anything else). This, in turn, provides a narrower window for the GOP to turn the bill into a series of wedge issues and means that there is less of a potential for moderate and conservative Democrats to grow skittish about supporting the legislation.

There are ample opportunities for Republican leadership to draw out the legislative process if it goes to conference committee. The Congressional Research Service, in a report published in April 2003, identified three steps that the Congress has to take simply to send a bill to conference.


Getting It Done !

Visit B4B Site