Monday, March 22, 2010



The House of Representatives passed a health care bill by a vote of 219-212 and sent a reconciliation change bill to the Senate by a vote of 220-211.

The path of the legislation though Congress was circuitous.

1 - A health care bill was passed in the House.
2 - A different bill, HR 3590, was amended and then approved by the Senate.
2 - The Senate Bill went back to the House where it was approved 219-212, along with "reconciliation" changes 220-211.
3 - The reconciliation changes, HR 4872, must go back to the Senate for approval.

By Senate rules, reconciliation changes are approved by a majority vote and are not subject to a filibuster, which would require 60 votes to end.
(Since "rules" are at issue here, the Senate Parliamentarian -- ie the rules arbitrator -- may play a vital role in this stage.)

Here's a moderately lucid description of the process, in Wikipedia:

The Reconciliation bill is HR 4872

Reading this is not too helpful, as it consists of a lot of language amending other laws
(and on the face of it seems to include a lot of other -- quite strange -- stuff.)

So here, again, is what Wikipedia has to say:

Here is the White House summary of the President's "proposal": The "proposal" of course is not the actual bill.

The health care bill was passed with "Yes" votes from 220 Democrats. No Republicans voted for the bill. The Senate version was also passed entirely with Democratic votes.

With dedicated Republican opposition, and a range of views among the Democrats as to what should be included in the health care bill, the process of passing the bill was lengthy and difficult.

It is a great tribute to the governing style of President Obama that hard work, unflagging committment, and a continual search for ways to reach a compromise acceptable to a majority in Congress finally succeeded in passing the bill.

It is something of a shame for most media outlets that reporting on the details of the bill was meager, while superficial reporting about the bill's progress
(with less gravity than reports on a TV reality show contest) was extensive. The poor quality of much of the reporting may well have made passage of the bill more difficult.

It should also be noted that the arcane processes of Congress also made the process difficult. For example, the final version of the bill -- the version that Congress votes on -- ought to be easily downloadable in a version that is clearly readable and understandable. (No such version seems to exist.) The bill should just state the new laws, explicitly, in clear simple language.

Here's the best I've found:

Clicking on the following link will download a PDF version of the bill the Senate passed:

(Note: To add to the confusion, the following bill started life as ‘‘An Act to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modify the first-time homebuyers credit in the case of members of the Armed Forces and certain other Federal employees, and for other purposes.’’ . The name of the bill as well as its entire purpose were changed during the process.)

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