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Tag Archive | "Conference"

Treading on Transparency

House and Senate Leadership have agreed to forgo the formal conference process to reconcile differences in their respective health care reform bills. Rather the House and Senate will engage in a process known as “amendment exchange.”  A detailed report from CRS explains the procedure.

The decision to forgo the conference process means that there will not be a corresponding Conference Report for the final health care reform legislation. Such reports are helpful in clarifying Congressional intent. And while a joint explanatory statement (often called the managers’ statement) can be submitted to the Congressional Record, it is not a required action in the amendment exchange process.

Last December, C-SPAN sent a letter to House and Senate Leadership urging them allow media coverage of negotiations to reconcile the differences in the bills. On January 5, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) responded that the health care legislation has been subjected to an increased level of scrutiny.  He indicated that the House will continue to have an open process and continue to inform the public. However, at that time, Congressional Leadership had not made the decision to pursue an amendment exchange strategy to reconcile the bills. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has also responded by saying that he is committed to ensuring that the public has an opportunity to review a final bill before its passage. Nonetheless, Republicans (and some Democrats) have continued to call for open negotiations and petitions have gone viral.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) indicated his hope to have changes to the bill sent to the Congressional Budget Office by Friday or Saturday.

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