So much for “fixing the bill in conference”

For a while now, whenever we’ve written about concerns that President Obama wasn’t sufficiently supporting his own campaign promise, the public option, many of the President’s defenders told us to fret not, the President had a plan, and it involved fixing the bill in conference, where the public option would be magically saved. Now it’s increasingly sounding like there may not be a conference at all.

As I wrote in the post below, some liberal Democrats in the House aren’t at all happy with the direction of the Senate’s health care bill. And, that is especially important because there’s an increasing chance that the Senate bill will be the final product.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the proposed idea of a mini-conference:

Over the course of the debate on health insurance reform, we’ve been told not to worry so much about what passes in the House and Senate, because it will all be fixed in the conference committee. Well, we’re in the middle of November and have yet to see the Senate bill (although it’s expected later today.) All the delays by Blue Dogs and conservative Democrats like Max Baucus and Kent Conrad taken a toll and have cost momentum. There’s pressure to just get something done — and when that kind of talk starts, it’s never good. Now, there’s talk that instead of a real conference committee, we might see a “mini-conference” of just leadership to get a bill done quickly.

Now, we’ve gone from “mini-conference” to “ping pong” according to Ryan Grim:

The health care reform bill that passes the Senate might be the one that ends up on President Obama’s desk, bypassing the usual House-Senate conference committee and avoiding another 60-vote threshold to end a filibuster.

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.

Either way, the purpose is to limit opportunities to improve the bill that finally emerges from the Senate. So much for fixing it in conference. The House liberals should be holding some cards right now. Rahm Emanuel needs every single one of them.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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