Conference vs. Ping-Pong
Barring any last-minute surprises, health-care reform will pass the Senate early tomorrow morning. But as much as this feels like the end of the road, it isn't. The House and the Senate still need to settle the substantial differences between their bills and pass a common piece of legislation. They can do this through an extended conference, in which negotiators from both chambers meet over a matter of weeks to tweak the bill and come up with new ideas, or it can be done through "ping-ponging," in which the Senate passes amendments that mollify the House, and the House simply passes that bill unchanged, or adds its own amendments that are passed by the Senate.
The virtue of ping-ponging is that it's quicker, and Democrats, at this point, want to pass this bill and move on to other things. The virtue of conference is that it's more flexible, and it gives people time to think through the bills as currently constituted and, in theory, develop a more appealing synthesis. That's not to overstate the power of the conference committee: The final bill would still need 60 votes in the Senate, and so none of the delicate political compromises could be undone. But it's safe to say that more changes could be, and would, be made.
At this point, I'd probably side with those who want a conference committee. As the expert wish lists I've been publishing for the past few days show, there's much that could yet be done to improve the bill, and not all of it is controversial. The most popular response, by far, was to substitute the House's federal exchange model for the Senate's state-by-state exchange model. Other ideas included adding Ron Wyden's voucher option, explicitly freeing medical data, and much more.
There's much that could be done to this bill that's off the path of political controversy but could really better the underlying legislation. The conference won't get all of it done, nor can it wait until perfection, but now that the bill's passage looks almost assured, spending a couple of weeks letting smart and decent negotiators from the two chambers talk some of this out has the potential to do a lot of good. Though I'm sympathetic to the more pessimistic take that letting people talk this out for a few weeks will harden disagreements and give both the right and the far left more time to whip up opposition to the bill. Like a lot of things, it comes down to exactly how broken you think our political system is.
Posted by: aawiegel | December 23, 2009 7:27 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BradGabel2002 | December 23, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: srw3 | December 23, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: zeppelin003 | December 23, 2009 8:19 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ATLGuy | December 23, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: twm1 | December 24, 2009 1:20 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jasper99 | December 24, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: onewing1 | December 24, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.