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December 23, 2009

Ping Pong: Dems to Avoid Conference in Favor of (Please Sit Down) Shady Back-Room Deal

They heard the American people. They just don't care.

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 -- I don't know if this is a real "but" or more kabuki -- a Pelosi ally and top Democrat says it's time to start the process over.

In the House, we fought hard to repeal McCarran-Ferguson, the antitrust exemption that insurance companies have enjoyed for years. We did that because we believed firmly that those Fortune 500 corporations should not enjoy special treatment.

Yet the Senate bill does not include that provision — despite assurances from some members that they will seek to add it. By ending that protection, we will be able to go after insurance companies with federal penalties for misleading advertising or dishonest business practices…

And of course, the Senate bill did not remove the onerous choice language intended to appeal to anti-abortion forces…

It’s time that we draw the line on this weak bill and ask the Senate to go back to the drawing board.

Read both Ed's and Allah's commentary to realize this ain't going to be stopped in the House. Most of the Blue Dog hold-outs are ready to vote yes, probably just to end the discussion and, they wrongly think, put this unpleasantness behind them.

The vote was tight as a tick last time, and a couple of votes have been lost, but the bulk of the Blue Dogs will sell out their supposed "principles" gladly to make nice-nice with their liberal donor base and hope that everyone's forgotten by November 2010.

PS, We won't forget. And we won't give you "credit" for your posturing for a month or two as giving a rat's ass what your non-San-Fransisco-big-money-donors think.

We are going to end your careers.



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posted by Ace at 04:47 PM

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