Health Care Reform: The Deck Is Stacked

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on September 23, 2009

So, here’s the deal:

1. The Senate Finance Committee is considering Chairman Baucus’s health care reform proposal. One of the things it is dealing with, is the issue of cost analysis. Douglas Elmendorf, the Director of the Congressional Budget Office, has stated that actual legislative language should be used in order to provide a comprehensive cost analysis, and that “conceptual language,” or plain English, will not do.

2. As a consequence, Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee stated that they need to have legislative language with which to work in order to get a comprehensive cost estimate.

3. Democrats don’t like this, because it could give critics of health care reform a target to shoot at. So during the Committee hearings, they claimed that because Americans don’t understand legislative language, they would argue against using it.

4. Olympia Snowe–who is mentioned as the most likely Republican to vote for a Democratic vision of health care reform–got ticked off. Mark Hemingway describes her ticked-offedness:

The Democratic opposition to working with the legislative language seemed to inflame the GOP members of the committee — particularly Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). “The [CBO] director didn’t ask for plain language, he didn’t ask for concepts,” she told the committee. “He was being very specific.”

She also hammered the Democrats for their obvious political motives.”We shouldn’t be afraid of sunlight, we shouldn’t be afraid of transparency, we shouldn’t be afraid of accountability, We shouldn’t be afraid of numbers and facts,” Sen. Snowe said. “I don’t know what’s happening in two weeks that we have to put this on a legislative fast track.” After a while, Sen. Snowe just began to sound like a broken record. “I truly don’t understand the skepticism, I do not understand the reluctance … If it takes two more weeks, it takes two more weeks … Is there something happening in two weeks that we can not wait? … I want to do our job and and I want to sit here and do it as long as it takes.” If the Democrats want support from GOP moderates such as Snowe, putting expediency over basic transparency and caution hardly seems like the way to earn their support.

5. Actual legislative language got ditched in favor of conceptual language, despite the wishes of Director Elmendorf.

6. Is there any doubt anymore that the legislative process behind health care reform has gotten out of control?

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