Where we are right now is that the Senate is voting on their own health care reform bill. If it passes, it obviously isn’t the same bill that the House approved. So the Senate and the House need to sit down and create a whole new bill from those two individual bills that they believe both the House and the Senate will approve. This will take some time.
There’s an alternative, however:
There is increased chatter on Capitol Hill about a possible “ping-ponging” of the Senate health care bill: that chamber would pass its health care bill, send it to the House and the House would be asked to pass it with no changes and send it directly to the president.
That limits the options of congressional critics — under the usual procedure, lawmakers dissatisfied with the bill pushed through their chamber can win changes through adroit political maneuvering in conference committee negotiations.
“It’s the only scenario by which we could actually get this whole thing done before the New Year. The House has indicated they’d consider it, depending on what the final bill looks like over here after we finish with the sausage-making,” said a senate Democratic aide involved in the health care fight.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is currently negotiating what’s known as a “manager’s amendment.” That amendment includes large and small concerns that senators want worked out before voting to end a filibuster. If Democrats decide to ping-pong the bill, the manager’s amendment becomes, in effect, the only place to work out differences.
If Senator Reid talks to the House beforehand, and can get their concerns into the Manager’s amendment, AND it can be approved by the Senate, then the House could just immediately vote and approve the Senate bill without any more wrangling.
I’m not a political expert, and I don’t know how often this occurs, but it seems like a good idea to me. One less chance to filibuster as well.
UPDATE: Steve Benen thinks it’s unlikely to happen.