House and Senate Democrats are "almost certain" to sidestep a formal conference committee and negotiate informally to reconcile the health-care reform bills they have passed, two top congressional staffers told The New Republic. By "ping-ponging" the legislation back and forth, Democrats reportedly hope to avoid a series of procedural steps requiring votes and full debates that Republicans could use to delay negotiations. Would forgoing a conference committee shut out Republicans, or just save time before an inevitable showdown over the final vote? (Watch Republican leaders sound off on health care.)
This exposes Democrats' hypocrisy: The idea here is to bypass public hearings and exclude Republicans from negotiations to save a little time, says Ed Morrissey in Hot Air. But to do so House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and President Obama will have to break promises to end "backroom deals" in Washington. And for what? They'll never avoid a filibuster on a final vote unless the House accepts the Senate version of the bill, which has no public insurance option.
"TNR: No conference committee for ObamaCare"
The GOP removed itself from this debate: Of course Republicans are mad, says Steve Benen in The Washington Monthly, but that's because they're trying to kill health-care reform, not because they "have anything constructive to offer." This way, the White House and House and Senate Democrats can work out a compromise and try to muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP Senate filibuster, then move on to "a dozen other issues in desperate need of attention—jobs bill, Wall Street reform, climate change, etc."
Actually, progressives are the ones being hamstrung: Is this "undemocratic"? Yes, and no, says David Waldman in DailyKos. It eliminates an "accountability moment," because negotiators won't go on record with their approval or disapproval of a conference report. But the final bill will still face open debate and votes in both chambers. The ones really being weakened here are the progressives who had hoped to "fix" the bill in conference before the final vote.
"Congress looks to avoid conference on health insurance reform"