Secret health care deliberations

Geoffrey Lawrence

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.

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.”

Geoffrey Lawrence

Geoffrey Lawrence

Director of Research

Geoffrey Lawrence is director of research at Nevada Policy.

Lawrence has broad experience as a financial executive in the public and private sectors and as a think tank analyst. Lawrence has been Chief Financial Officer of several growth-stage and publicly traded manufacturing companies and managed all financial reporting, internal control, and external compliance efforts with regulatory agencies including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Lawrence has also served as the senior appointee to the Nevada State Controller’s Office, where he oversaw the state’s external financial reporting, covering nearly $10 billion in annual transactions. During each year of Lawrence’s tenure, the state received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Award from the Government Finance Officers’ Association.

From 2008 to 2014, Lawrence was director of research and legislative affairs at Nevada Policy and helped the institute develop its platform of ideas to advance and defend a free society.  Lawrence has also written for the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, with particular expertise in state budgets and labor economics.  He was delighted at the opportunity to return to Nevada Policy in 2022 while concurrently serving as research director at the Reason Foundation.

Lawrence holds an M.A. in international economics from American University in Washington, D.C., an M.S. and a B.S. in accounting from Western Governors University, and a B.A. in international relations from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.  He lives in Las Vegas with his beautiful wife, Jenna, and their two kids, Carson Hayek and Sage Aynne.