Fund: Dems will probably bypass conference committee for ping-pong

posted at 3:35 pm on December 23, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

The always-invaluable John Fund of the Wall Street Journal writes today about the manner in which the House and Senate will likely go about reconciling their very different versions of ObamaCare.  Will that process be open and transparent, as Democrats promised?  Will the negotiations be telecast on C-SPAN, as Obama vowed last year?  Not exactly, although the ping-pong process Fund describes still leaves a big problem for Democrats in the Senate:

When Democrats took over Congress in 2007, they increasingly did not send bills through the regular conference process. “We have to defer to the bigger picture,” explained Rep. Henry Waxman of California. So the children’s health insurance bill passed by the House that year was largely dumped in favor of the Senate’s version. House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel and other Democrats complained the House had been “cut off at the knees” but ultimately supported the bill. Legislation on lobbying reform and the 2007 energy bill were handled the same way — without appointing an actual conference.

Rather than appoint members to a public conference committee, those measures were “ping-ponged” — i.e. changes to reconcile the two versions were transmitted by messenger between the two houses as the final product was crafted behind closed doors solely by the leadership. Many Democrats grumbled at the secrecy. “We need to get back to the point where we use conference committees . . . and have serious dialogue,” said Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama at the time.

But serious dialogue isn’t what Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid are interested in right now. Look for the traditional conference committee to be replaced by a “ping-pong” game in which health care is finalized behind closed doors with little public scrutiny before the bill is rushed to the floor of each chamber for a final vote.

Pelosi will have no trouble twisting arms in her chamber to get to 218 on any version of ObamaCare.  It only got as close as it did the first time, when it passed by just five votes, because Pelosi was able to manage the vote, allowing Democrats at risk in 2010 to cast a vote against the bill in numbers too small to threaten passage.  She probably had ten to twenty votes left to use if needed, and Pelosi will not have any procedural obstacles in her way.

On the other hand, Reid will have the same problem he does now.  Even that kind of a compromise vote has to have debate, which means it has to clear cloture at least once, and possibly as many as three times.  If the various payoffs that got the present bill to a floor vote are gone, expect that to be an insurmountable problem for Reid.  The same is true if the new bill contains a public option or Medicare buy-in.  Reid has no votes to spare to get past cloture, and any retreat from the status quo this week will lose votes from at least one Senator, or possibly more than that.

Of course, since the White House has all but punted on ObamaCare in favor of a “hard pivot” to jobs, this may all be a little bit academic, at least for the moment.  But John rightly points out that this hardly represents “transparency,” or honesty in government.  This entire year has consisted of backroom deals, vote buying, and financial shell games as a means to hide the true costs and impact of ObamaCare.  The American electorate doesn’t need a conference committee televised on C-SPAN to take the correct lessons from the cesspool of corruption in the Reid-Pelosi Congress, and they’ll remember it at the midterms.


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OmahaConservative on December 23, 2009 at 3:38 PM

I would lvoe to rip into him. Mr I WON I WON because peopel can’t count.

upinak on December 23, 2009 at 3:40 PM

but by then, it will be too late.

search4truth on December 23, 2009 at 3:40 PM

The only thing obvious is what crooks they all are.

ORconservative on December 23, 2009 at 3:40 PM

I expect it to be even worse than this. Pelosi will ensure that almost nothing in the Senate bill changes by promising House members that their wish list will slowly be added to other bills over the coming months.

BadgerHawk on December 23, 2009 at 3:42 PM

I don’t get it… why ping pong the process if you’re going to hold it off to do jobs first?

Sounds like they’re just propagandizing the whole issue to lay the foundation for their campaign in 2010. See? We cared about jobs more than health care. It’ll make it look more like they’re getting stuff done with a shoo-in.

Or maybe their internal polling numbers are so bad they’re mulling dropping the whole health care bill altogether?

Skywise on December 23, 2009 at 3:44 PM

Geez … one would think the time for pitchforks is at hand. These people are working for themselves and no one else.

darwin on December 23, 2009 at 3:46 PM

One wonders what the rest of the Dem Senate caucus will now want after Harry’s Bazaar handed out goodies to senators who held out long enough to be offered them.

Nelson may have done the GOP a favor by raising the bidding price so high (feds take over Medicaid increases plus a few hundred million dollars for state projects tossed in).

Harry will have to really game the CBO numbers to keep “bending the curve.”

Wethal on December 23, 2009 at 3:47 PM

As if the ‘rats won’t add in everything they want behind closed doors after the bill is voted on.

Bishop on December 23, 2009 at 3:47 PM

Can we just take over the Capitol? After all, it is our house and we pay the bills.

darwin on December 23, 2009 at 3:49 PM

CNN’s Costello: ‘Might the Republicans Blame in Part Themselves’ for Senate Sweetheart Deals?

OmahaConservative on December 23, 2009 at 3:49 PM

how can anyone, regardless of party, think that this is an acceptable means of government? I mean, if the Repubs were engaging in this crap I would still be against it. Even if the bill was to eliminate the death tax, it still needs to go through the proper channels.

search4truth on December 23, 2009 at 3:50 PM

I also wonder how much they’ll be able to keep secret. If everyone expects this to be going on somewhere in the Capitol, bits and pieces may leak out. “What did you get?” “How much did Rep. or Sen. X get for his vote?”

And of course, Harry’s provision on the Death Panel and the Senate super majority needed to get rid of it is now out.

Wethal on December 23, 2009 at 3:50 PM

I hope the GOP reply to the SOTU shows a clip of Obowma promisng to conduct negotiations with insurance companies on C-SPAN.

Wethal on December 23, 2009 at 3:51 PM

Of course, since the White House has all but punted on ObamaCare in favor of a “hard pivot” to jobs, this may all be a little bit academic, at least for the moment.

Punted in order to make a hard pivot? If he punts on Obamacare until february what happens to all those people that write him those letters he gets everyday? Won’t those stack up and the tears continue to well, and the 14K daily still lose their coverage? What happens to all of that?

Are “jobs” now the “ball that we took our eye off of” for the Obama administration? He loves those basketball metaphors and used that one on Afghanistan and Iraq. If Obama is hard pivoting toward something then it is something he should’ve been guarding all along the way and has utterly failed to do so. Jobs and the economy have been dunking on him and eatin’ his lunch for nearly a year while he’s been on this fool’s errand he is now attempting to pivot away from.

This pivot is going to leave a divot.

Metaphors.

ted c on December 23, 2009 at 3:52 PM

You know…

… you would think a couple of guys just might want to inform the American public to all of this corruption.

Seven Percent Solution on December 23, 2009 at 3:52 PM

ted c on December 23, 2009 at 3:52 PM

It’s 4th and 10 and I am facing a full court press!!! LOL

search4truth on December 23, 2009 at 3:53 PM

Frightened, clandestine fascists.

rplat on December 23, 2009 at 3:54 PM

Or maybe their internal polling numbers are so bad they’re mulling dropping the whole health care bill altogether?

Skywise on December 23, 2009 at 3:44 PM

I don’t know about dropping it but I’m sure that their numbers are making getting the Obamacare debacle off the front page a big priority. Pivoting on jobs (pre-final passage for O-care) means that Obama’s numbers must really be in the toilet, otherwise he’d press ahead. If they really didn’t care about their numbers (from us that is) then they’d pass it and tell us all to pi$$-off. No, I’d bet that Obama see’s this whole thing as a loser for him (in the ST) so he’s pulling back for now.

volnation on December 23, 2009 at 3:55 PM

I feel for the descendents of Reid, and Pelosi. They will forever carry the names of these 2 dolts, and it won’t be a loving remembrance.

capejasmine on December 23, 2009 at 3:58 PM

I wonder if the CBS and MSNBC stories on vote-buying were just too much. Once that got out, they had to change the narrative for a while.

So in February they whip out a bill jointly agreed upon in secret, and ram it through both houses as fast as possible. Once signed, the vote-buying is done before it’s in the news. That is, until the Dems answer for it in November.

Wethal on December 23, 2009 at 3:58 PM

ted c on December 23, 2009 at 3:52 PM

Either that or he knows that UE will continue to climb during 1Q ’10. If he has intel that predicts 10.5-11% UE, then a “hard pivot” on jobs then makes sense.

volnation on December 23, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Forgive me for asking, but I don’t quite understand Obama’s pivot on Reidcare to jobs. Does this mean that the House won’t be trying to push this through tomorrow? If they do, are there any other steps before it’s a done deal? For example, if changes are made to the Senate’s version of the bill, would it have to go through again to get approval on the House’s version? All of this is so confusing.

RachDubya on December 23, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Frightened, clandestine fascists.
rplat on December 23, 2009 at 3:54 PM

Yes, why are the National Socialist Democrats so secretive?

Fake8 on December 23, 2009 at 4:01 PM

something needs to happen, we the American people must rise up and prevent this, and elections in 2010 won’t do that before this thing is passed.

lavell12 on December 23, 2009 at 4:10 PM

If the various payoffs that got the present bill to a floor vote are gone…

Not going to happen. In the ‘ping pong’ process, Pelosi isn’t going to torpedo something that they know would cause problems in getting it passed in the Senate.

Again – why the continual grasping-at-straws here?

Midas on December 23, 2009 at 4:13 PM

If the GOP doesn’t stay on this healthcare issue and continue to educate the public on its destructive nature then they are damn fools. I seriously wonder if they have the fortitude, political courage and sticktoitiveness to confront and defeat these fascist like Democrats. While enjoying their pay and perks these politicos have become fat and lazy.

rplat on December 23, 2009 at 4:15 PM

Lets take Reid and Nelson hostage. I won’t harm a woman but I will kick those two losers ass.

lavell12 on December 23, 2009 at 4:15 PM

Again – why the continual grasping-at-straws here?

Midas on December 23, 2009 at 4:13 PM

For many it’s an artifact of hope . . . it may well be futile but it energizes the psyche for the fight ahead.

rplat on December 23, 2009 at 4:20 PM

And of course, Harry’s provision on the Death Panel and the Senate super majority needed to get rid of it is now out.

Do you have a source for this development, please?

parteagirl on December 23, 2009 at 4:32 PM

Forgive me for asking, but I don’t quite understand Obama’s pivot on Reidcare to jobs. Does this mean that the House won’t be trying to push this through tomorrow? If they do, are there any other steps before it’s a done deal? For example, if changes are made to the Senate’s version of the bill, would it have to go through again to get approval on the House’s version? All of this is so confusing.

RachDubya on December 23, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Obama’s pioting b/c his numbers are bad and he sees trouble ahead in terms of UE. The POTUS has much better intel and forecasts than most of us and there is no way that they see a decrease in UE for the first quarter of next year. I’d say that 10.5- 11% is probable if not likely. Try pitching higher taxes, increased regs and garden variety govt meddling to the voters with 10%+ UE. So, he pivots on jobs/economy only to pivot back to health care, a major reason that UE stinks right now.

As for the conference of the two bills, unless the House passes the Senate bill soon after passage, then a conference takes place and upon it’s conclusion, each body must pass the “final” bill, by much the same procedure that we’ve seen over the past several weeks. As time marches forward, the numbers can only get worse for this bill, which means that all those skittish House members will have to vote for a turd a mere 9 mos. or so before they start to campaign for reelection. I’m willing to bet that there are large number of House and Senate members that would just fine with this pig dying now, not to mention 60 days from now.

volnation on December 23, 2009 at 4:32 PM

I’m willing to bet that there are large number of House and Senate members that would just fine with this pig dying now, not to mention 60 days from now.

I hope you’re right, but I don’t believe Pelosi/Reid see it that way. This is there once-in-a- generation 60-vote moment. They’ve come this far- I don’t see them willing to let it wither away.

parteagirl on December 23, 2009 at 4:36 PM

Harry will have to really game the CBO numbers to keep “bending the curve.”

Wethal on December 23, 2009 at 3:47 PM

Did you really believe he meant bending the curve down? When this is all over he’ll grow about bending the curve and it’ll be the truth. The curve will have been bent up.

chemman on December 23, 2009 at 4:48 PM

oops: grow = crow

chemman on December 23, 2009 at 4:50 PM

Look for the traditional conference committee to be replaced by a “ping-pong” game in which health care is finalized behind closed doors with little public scrutiny before the bill is rushed to the floor of each chamber for a final vote.

How do they get away with this?! This is not democracy.

CP on December 23, 2009 at 5:01 PM

This entire year has consisted of backroom deals, vote buying, and financial shell games as a means to hide the true costs and impact of ObamaCare.

In other words, “business as usual”.

GarandFan on December 23, 2009 at 5:07 PM

Both the Chinese and the Dems like ping pong. Interesting.

journeyintothewhirlwind on December 23, 2009 at 5:49 PM

There’s a very simple solution to Reid’s problem. Just don’t give any of the Senator’s time to find out that there particular bribe has been removed from the bill. Go directly from back room to a vote. Don’t give anyone a chance to read the bill before they have to vote on it.

MarkTheGreat on December 23, 2009 at 6:10 PM

Ed, politicians bet every day on the poor memory and short attention span of the American voter. And they almost always win.

njcommuter on December 24, 2009 at 12:15 AM

Again, more evidence that the Demoncrates will lie, cheat, and steal to maintain their power to do what they please to U.S., not at all representative of our Republic’s operating manuals the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

MSGTAS on December 25, 2009 at 9:50 AM

Actually let’s call it an A-minus in flatulance…

jgdp on December 25, 2009 at 6:52 PM