While it’s good to be back from break, today was crazy. I can’t go to bed, though, without passing along some big developments in the health care reform process. The biggest news of the day is that the the ping-ponging process that I brought up a few weeks ago seems like it’s going to happen:
According to a pair of senior Capitol Hill staffers, one from each chamber, House and Senate Democrats are “almost certain” to negotiate informally rather than convene a formal conference committee. Doing so would allow Democrats to avoid a series of procedural steps–not least among them, a series of special motions in the Senate, each requiring a vote with full debate–that Republicans could use to stall deliberations, just as they did in November and December.
“There will almost certainly be full negotiations but no formal conference,” the House staffer says. “There are too many procedural hurdles to go the formal conference route in the Senate.”
I can’t help but feel a little pride in thinking this was a good idea back then.
Unfortunately, it’s not very good for conservatives. It will not allow much room for them to debate the bill at all. Of course, this was inevitable, since the leadership pretty much said they weren’t interested in negotiationg at all:
One reason Democrats expect Republicans to keep trying procedural delays is that the Republicans have signaled their intent to do so. On Christmas Eve, when the Senate passed its bill, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell memorably vowed in a floor speech that “This fight isn’t over. My colleagues and I will work to stop this bill from becoming law.”
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.
The fact that the Senate and the House are discussing this seriously leads me to believe that (1) they must have a plan to get this done and (2) they want to get it done before the State of the Union address. Things should move fast once Congress is back in session.