Blog-generated health policy news returns with bang after a quiet holiday intermission. Reports first circulated late last night from The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn that Senate and House Democrats are “almost certain” to hold informal negotiations when merging the chambers’ health overhaul bills:
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.
The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein followed Cohn’s reports Monday afternoon, writing: “In what one health care reform activist calls a ‘quasi ping-pong’ strategy, House and Senate leaders will each have a set of negotiators bounce variations of health care legislation back and forth until the disagreements between the two chambers are hammered out.”
The National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez concludes from a conversation with a source on the Hill, “Will the Left make it more Left? This vet [her source] doubts it: ‘The bill will have to align fairly closely to the Senate bill; don’t believe all the hype about liberals demanding changes — they’ll cave as always.’”
Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey seems unsurprised that Dems are avoiding a conference, saying, “Given the bill’s increasing unpopularity, it doesn’t surprise that Democrats want to hide themselves while trying to get it out of Congress. However, that kind of approach will not build support for ObamaCare. It will undermine whatever support it has left except as a purely partisan exercise — which explains why its support among likely voters closely mirrors the percentage of Democrats among that sample.”
The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein thinks its not Democrats hiding, it’s Republicans obstructing:
But like the budget reconciliation process or the entitlements commission, this is another example of polarization and obstruction forcing the majority party to take the scenic route when the highway would be better. The product of a Congress that doesn’t work isn’t simply that things don’t get done, but that many of the things that do get done are passed through strange processes that lead to worse legislation.
- Matthew Holt, founder of The Health Care Blog, lists five items “to pay attention to” this year, including more on a health overhaul: “The finish is the start: It looks like some version of the Senate bill will be a done deal by sometime late January. That means that there’s about two years of health care industry players figuring out what it all means;”
- Bruce Barlett asks if Republicans should have compromised to begin with on a health bill;
- Maggie Mahar “fact checks” what effects, exactly, a “Cadillac tax” would have on the health insurance market;
- Andrew Gelman plots health spending versus life expectancy in a handful of nations;
- James Capretta and Yuval Levin in the Weekly Standard call the Senate health bill “an appalling disaster in the making, for its own sponsors no less than for the rest of the country;”
- And the New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg says “it is nonsense” for liberals “to attribute the less than fully satisfactory” health overhaul bill “to the alleged perfidy of the President or ‘the Democrats.’”