Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Just A Bill

Andrew Sullivan has a great throwaway line at the end of a post today:
By the way, have you begun to notice the massive amount of legislative change and action since Obama came to office? More will.
One of the reasons that people haven't noticed, as Norm Ornstein observed a while ago, is a consequence of the way Congress does business nowadays.  Have you watched the Schoolhouse Rock "I'm Just A Bill" lately?  Our hero, the bill, was a one line item about school buses stopping at railroad tracks.  It went through a House committee, the House floor, a Senate committee, the Senate floor, and then was signed into law.  But even then, and certainly now, that would rarely happen.  Instead, our friend Bill would (just like the schoolbuses!) wait for the next big train to come by: a comprehensive eduction, or perhaps transportation, effort.  And then the bill's sponsor would, if he was talented and lucky, add the bill to that larger effort.  Remember the line of bills waiting to get signed?  One of them...two of them, I guess, were twins!  I always thought that was funny, but in real life now most bills that get signed are whole families, with kids, grandkids, first cousins, and perhaps a few of those miscellaneous relatives that you're not quite sure who they are, maybe the stepsister of your divorced sister-in-law that just got on so well with the cousins from Atlanta that she just stuck as family. 

So, the two mega-bills that the president has signed into law so far (the stimulus and the health care bill) both contained that sort of multitudes.  Think about health care.  If I have this right, I'd say there are two Big Bills: one is the individual mandate/pre-existing conditions/subsidies bill; the other sets up exchanges.  They're related and overlapping, but I think they're conceptually separate.  And then, there are a whole lot of other bills.  The various cost control pilot programs probably each started life as separate bills.  The CLASS Act was a separate bill.  The Medicare cost board.  Of course, there's also student loan reform, which had nothing to do with health care at all, but was included in a second "sidecar" bill. 

Which brings me to today's news that Greg Sargent is reporting, which is the implementation of the requirement that insurance companies allow parents to keep kids up to age 26 on their insurance.  I don't know the origins of this one; I don't know if it started life as a bill, or as an idea cooked up by Obama's White House health care people, or what, but again this is something that as far as I can tell could exist, and may once have existed, as a free-standing bill.

In other words, Sullivan is exactly correct: this has been, so far, a very productive Congress.  Note that he's now rated by Politifact as having fulfilled over a fifth of his campaign promises  (and about a third if compromises, such as state instead of national insurance exchanges, are included), for what it's worth.  That's without the big items still out there: banking (fairly likely), climate (still unlikely, but not impossible), and immigration (I'd be shocked) I missing any?  And it's also without all the small things that will happen.  Of course, that alone doesn't make Barack Obama a successful president, whatever that means.  But those who are focused only on what hasn't happened, or what has been compromised, are missing the big picture here.


  1. Great point, Jonathan. Except, after this, I'd give immigration reform a better chance at passing than climate legislation.

  2. Jon,
    Don't forget: on that big health care train was a student loan caboose.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?