Secret health care deliberations
Rumors among DC insiders on both the right and the left are saying that congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are planning to bypass the standard procedure for reconciling differences in the two health care “reform” bills passed by the House and Senate.
Normally, the next stage in the legislative process would be to form a Conference Committee made up of representatives from both houses who would work together to resolve the differences in the two bills and send them back to each house for a final vote. The composition of a Conference Committee is generally reflective of the composition of each house, meaning that it would include Republicans and moderate Democrats. Reid and Pelosi see this as a risk that’s not worth taking.
Instead, Reid and Pelosi are holding closed-door negotiations starting this week with only high-ranking leftist Democrats (even though Congress does not go back into session until January 12). Reportedly, they plan to craft a series of amendments to the recently-passed Senate bill that can be taken up by the House and yet still garner the 60-vote approval needed to get it back through the Senate. Commentators are comparing this strategy to a game of ping-pong where the legislation keeps bouncing back and forth between each house.
The congressional leaders’ strategy will lock out Republican opposition for the most part, but they will still have to ensure they can buy off enough votes in the Senate to keep their own caucus together. The far-left wing of the Democratic Party will be looking to “strengthen” the Senate bill by re-inserting some form of a government-run “public option.” Currently, the Senate bill does not include one. It is primarily a massive expansion of Medicaid combined with federal subsidies for individuals living up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line to purchase insurance on the newly-created “exchanges.” (There is also a mandate for every American to purchase health insurance or face fines or jail time.)
Yet, Reid has already had difficulty securing all of his fellow Senate Democrats’ votes on the legislation and significant changes could endanger that support. (As has been widely criticized, Senator Reid had to insert a provision stating the federal government would cover the State of Nebraska’s higher Medicaid costs indefinitely in order to purchase Senator Ben Nelson’s vote. Nebraska is the only state to get such preferential treatment – meaning there would be a wealth transfer from all other states to Nebraska as a result of the bill.)
It will certainly be interesting to see what the outcome of all this becomes.
Update: C-SPAN’s CEO has written a letter to congressional leadership urging them to allow coverage of the debate. However, something tells me that when Reid, Pelosi and the Obama Administration say something, they mean it. Well, if it’s that they won’t raise taxes on the middle class, they might not mean it…but I’m sure they’ll put their foot down when they say “closed-door negotiations.”