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Friday, December 11, 2009

Health Care Reform and the Genius of Our System

Back in the summer, I predicted against health care reform passing. I still hold to that prediction. I base it mostly on the genius of the legislative system set up by the founding fathers.

In order for this, or any bill to pass, it has to get out of a House Committee, make it to the full house, pass the House, and repeat a similar process in the Senate. After that, the two bills have to be merged and still pass both chambers.

Such a process was never intended for any bill that is tranformational like health care reform. Before a bill passes, it must get a majority of the votes as many as ten different times. For a small straightforward bill, that's not necessarily all that tough. For a bill like health care reform, that's a process that winds up being nearly impossible. With each committee, each body of the legislature, the bill needs to meet the needs of a different set of ideologies.

When it passed through the House, it went through a fairly liberal track until it got to the full House. Only then did the Blue Dogs have any opportunity to flex their legislative muscle and the moderated the bill a bit.

In the Senate, it started in Ted Kennedy's committee and wound up in the Senate Finance Committee. The ideological make up in the two committees are entirely different. The bills passed both committees but they looked entirely different. That's where we are now. Harry Reid can't square the two bills because at some point he was going to have to reconcile the ideological differences.

Then, even if Reid et al are able to reconcile the Senate, then the two bodies will have to square the two bills with each other. They'll have to do it and keep enough votes to still pass the bill. The genius of our system makes it difficult, very difficult, to make a bill turn into law. It's meant to keep bad bills from becoming law. That's exactly what it's doing here. This process, which the Democrats thought would go for a few months, is now dragging for near a year. Throughout, the public continued to turn more and more against it.

Once again, the genius of the system was in play. The genius is to slow the process down so that the public has enough time to sniff out a bad bill. That's exactly what happened as the summer turned into fall and now nearing in on winter. As it travelled from one committee to another the public had more and more time to examine the bill. Meanwhile, the public also saw a Democratic party that couldn't legislate straight. They saw a process that turned bitter and partisan.

In our system turning a bill into law is tough. It's supposed to be. It passes through several committees and then goes to a body. Then, it moves to the other body for the same process. So, in order to turn a bill into a law, legislators need to show political acumen, have a good bill, and manage the process well throughout. By the summer, everyone could see that the Democrats had none of that. That's why I bet against health care reform then. I knew the genius of our system would keep this monstrocity from becoming law.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Alternatively, the very process you described ensures that ONLY monstrous bills pass because they have to appease everyone.

The whole reason this bill is so complicated is because of a farcical need to go out of its way to not threaten the insurance companies. And yet everybody agrees that insurance companies ARE the problem. So in this case, appeasing everybody means NOT solving the problem.

So why pass a bill everybody knows for a fact isn't going to work? Because Obama needs to say he passed something.