Congressional Democrats are pursuing a somewhat atypical strategy
for merging the Senate and House versions of the health care reform
legislation. Instead of appointing a bicameral conference committee to
draft merged legislation--the normal process, but one that threatens to be lengthy and arduous--Democrats will meet behind closed doors to
agree on a combined bill. The two bills contain significant differences
and House Democrats are already pushing
for the merged bill to look as much like the House bill as possible.
C-SPAN has ask to broadcast the private reconciliation proceedings
live, a request that Republicans are supporting loudly
as Democrats plan to exclude them from the discussions. Why are
Democrats embracing this reconciliation strategy and what does it mean
for Congress and health care?
Cameras Stifle Honest Discussion Speaking on the Colbert Report, the Washington Post's Ezra Klein laments,
"If you got to see the reconciliation, what you would be seeing is a
kabuki reconciliation." He explains, "If you put the cameras there,
just like you saw in the final debate in the health care bill, people
just made speeches, did all they -- there will be changes, but they
won't dare have an honest discussion in front of the cameras. If we had
a grown-up political culture maybe they would, but we don't so they
- What Would GOP Contribute? Stephen Colbert said
of the "smoke-filled, back-room deals" that "Republicans won't be able
to contribute their valuable ideas like 'no' and 'nope' and, in an
appeal to Latino voters, 'nada.'" He asked of Democrats, "What are they
hiding? Are they having ice cream in there? Why won't they share their
- GOP Lost Their Right To Participate The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn argues, "Yes, Republicans are sure to complain that they're being excluded from
deliberations. But given their repeated efforts to block not just
reform but even mere votes on reform, it's not clear why Democrats are
obligated to include them in discussions anymore." He writes, "One reason Democrats expect Republicans to keep trying procedural
delays is that the Republicans have signaled their intent to do so."
- Media Should Protest Private Meetings The Washington Examiner calls for "a sit-down protest by journalists whose first job is to uphold the
public's right to know what its government is doing. Invite readers to
come join them in demanding open meetings. The last thing Reid and
Pelosi want is the spectacle of the Capitol Hill Police dragging
protesting journalists away from the closed doors. It's time to show
some cojones, people."
Final Product: Lightly Altered Senate Bill Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler predicts
that this process is designed to produce a final bill that looks much
like the Senate version, with some slight alteration from more-liberal
House Democrats. "House leaders are working with their Senate
counterparts and the White
House to come up with a package of amendments--to change the Senate
bill to greater reflect the House's plan. They can't rock the boat too
much, of course. When the package goes back to the Senate it will be
filibustered. Harry Reid will have to keep his 60-member caucus in line
and that means not disrupting the fragile balance."
Allows More Liberal Bill Reason's Peter Suderman thinks the strategy is about making reform legislation more liberal. "The
implicit argument here is that not filming the negotiations will
push the bill in a more progressive direction. I agree, but I think
that's a bad thing. And I also think that as excuses go, shutting
out C-SPAN and other media because doing so would limit opposition
to the progressive agenda is pretty weak."
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