Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Catch of the Day

Missed this yesterday, but it's one that I really want to highlight: to Ezra Klein, for calling out Mitch McConnell on the GOP myth that the Affordable Care Act was written behind closed doors.
After the Senate’s Health and Finance committees drafted versions of the Affordable Care Act, Reid did combine them in private before bringing them to the floor. But the idea that the law wasn’t written in the public eye is ridiculous. Both the committee processes were endless and, with the exception of Max Baucus’s sojourn into the “Gang of Six” process, quite open, and Reid’s effort to combine the bills mostly preserved the committees’ work. After the law came to the floor, there was both a long period of public debate and an extremely open amendment process — you can read the many, many amendments that got voted on here. As someone who had to cover that process and thus spent almost six solid months watching C-SPAN, I’ve little patience for those who suggest it was all conducted behind closed doors.
Essentially, there are four or more stages to most major bills that get considered in the modern Senate. They are drafted; they get considered and passed by one or more committee; negotiations take place to find a version of the bill which can receive 60 votes on the Senate floor; and then there's actual floor consideration.

It's absolutely true that the first and third steps of that process take place away from the fully public, CSPAN-available committee rooms and Senate floor. That's not new! There was nothing particularly special about the ACA in that regard.

Indeed: there was nothing particularly special about the procedures under which the ACA was drafted, considered, and passed. At all. The one procedural wrinkle that might be in the current edition of Barbara Sinclair's Unorthodox Lawmaking (I'm one edition behind, so I don't know what she added) was the dual final passage using reconciliation, but even that wrinkle was only a normal adaptation of normal techniques for an unusual situation. In other words, it's exactly the kind of ad hoc departure from the textbook Congress that Sinclair notes is standard procedure in the current Congress.

Combining pieces of a bill from the work of multiple committees, however, has been the way that Congress does its business for decades now. So are negotiations with individual Senators between committee action and the Senate floor. Mitch McConnell surely knows that, and he certainly knows, or at least once knew, that plenty of Republican amendments to the ACA were considered both in committee and on the Senate floor.

Again: nothing unusual about the procedures under with the Affordable Care Act was drafted, considered, and passed.

And: great catch!

1 comment:

  1. It's just a rare coincidence when Mitch McConnell says something true. Not that the rest of the Senate is steeped in truth-telling, but he seems particularly bad.


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