Thursday, December 24, 2009

What’s Next for Health Care Reform?

By the time most of you read this, the Senate will have passed it’s version of the Health Care bill.  Frankly, I’m sick and tired of all the arguing about it, so I’m happy to put this on the back burner until Congress resumes in mid-January, and I have no desire to spark another argument.  However, to avoid misunderstanding at that time, here are the different manners that the bill might proceed toward a unified version for Obama’s signature.
health-care-debate ...the ball is in the House's court beginning tomorrow morning after the Senate's vote on final passage of H.R. 3590. It'll be up to the House to decide what to do, and what they decide will have a big impact on how quickly the Senate can move to meet them.
Because the Senate will be sending back a different legislative vehicle than the House sent to them (the Senate will be sending back H.R. 3590 rather than the House-passed H.R. 3692), the House will have the opportunity to choose from among the following options:
  1. Agree to the Senate amendments to H.R. 3590, in which case they're done and the bill is ready for signature;
  2. Further amend H.R. 3590 (as amended by the Senate) and send it back to the Senate, with an insistence on its position and requesting a conference;
  3. Further amend H.R. 3590 (as amended by the Senate) and send it back to the Senate without further comment, letting the Senate decide to accept the House amendments and finish the bill, or alternatively insist on a conference;
  4. Simply disagree to the Senate amendments to H.R. 3590 and move immediately to go to conference on the two different versions of that bill, or;
  5. Do nothing right away on the floor, but instead begin informal negotiations on a package of amendments acceptable to both a majority in the House and 60 Senators.
Simply disagreeing with the Senate amendments to H.R. 3590 and immediately requesting a conference, creates some interesting issues, because in that case the House would be asking for a conference to resolve the differences between the Senate version of the health insurance reform bill that we've all been watching and the original House version of H.R. 3590, which was a completely different bill. (It was originally intended, "to modify the first-time homebuyers credit in the case of members of the Armed Forces and certain other Federal employees.")
One of the more interesting effects of seeking a conference between these two entirely different concepts of H.R. 3590 is that it would by necessity give the conferees much wider latitude for making changes. Conferees are normally restricted to negotiating only matters where the two versions of the bill disagree. But in this case, every single provision is in disagreement, since the House version of H.R. 3590 isn't even a health care bill.
But would that latitude really mean anything, given the demands of the Senate that little or nothing be changed, lest the 60-vote coalition fall apart? Probably not.
Another quick route to resolution, if the House is agreeable to bending but not simply accepting H.R. 3590 as is, would be for the time between now and the 12th to be spent in negotiations with the key players in the Senate and the White House, designing a package of amendments and testing them with the logjammers among the Senate's coalition of 60 (formerly known as "the Senate Democratic Caucus"). If the House can put together a package of changes that hold water with a majority in their own body as well as with 60 Senators, then that's something they can pass as an amendment to H.R. 3590 (as the Senate is expected to amend it tomorrow), and to which the Senate can then agree shortly after they return in January.
If they can pull that off -- even if things slip back a few days between now and then -- then there's no need for a conference, and the bill can be ready for the White House in time for the State of the Union. And it should be noted that skipping a formal conference has the benefit of relieving the Senate from having to possibly seek cloture on several procedural motions that might otherwise require votes -- like the motion to disagree to the House's amendment, a motion to request a conference, and a motion to appoint conferees, all of which could find themselves subject to Republican filibusters, and the resultant waiting periods for cloture "ripening," 30 post-cloture hours, etc….

Inserted from <Daily Kos>

There you have it, and when Congress reconvenes, you’ll know what to expect.


the walking man said...

Time for the liberal arguing is over now let the debate begin, It is what it is and will evolve for good or ill into what is will. There is only the merged bill left and we will support it; either puckered or open, but it will get the support of us left of center.

TomCat said...

Mark, I agree. However I will be fighting to reform this reform before the ink from Obama's pen dries.