Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Differences Remain between House and Senate on Health Reform

News broke yesterday that Democrats will bypass normal rules of process and not convene a House/Senate Conference to reconcile differences between the two chambers' health reform bills. Rather the House and Senate will play a game of legislative "ping-pong" as each body seeks to pass amendments until an agreement between the two is reached. This was views as being the only way to exclude Republicans from the process given the minority protections built into the Conference process. Interestingly, Democrats instituted many of those minority protections after reclaiming Congress in 2007 with the passage of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. By bypassing the Conference Democrats hope to speed up the process and have a bill for the president by early February. But many difficult negotiations await as an 11 page memo prepared by Democratic staffers shows - there remain over 50 substantive differences between the House and Senate that must be resolved. In the House, their version of reform passed with only 3 votes to spare and the Senate had not votes in reserve - the question now is how can Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi craft a compromise that will be acceptable to both chambers.