Leaders in the House and Senate have a secret plan to pass President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care plan without a conference and without any participation by the American people … but that plan that has been pushed to Plan B. The primary plan is to use a secretive conference committee procedure to pass Obamacare by the end of the year.
Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee passed the outline of a bill, The Vapor Bill, out of committee on a party line vote with the lone crossover Republican support of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) on a 14-9 vote. AP is reporting that Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) wants to commence debate the last week of October on his version of health care reform.
The plan being implemented right now to pass Obamacare is the following. The Senate will start debate on October 26th on a bill being written right now. The American people will not be allowed to view the writing of this bill and the negotiations between White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT). Human Events reported that the bill was being written before the Senate Finance Committee finished work on Obamacare and that President Obama’s head of the Office of Management and Budget has been present during the drafting of the legislation. .
In these closed door meetings, the negotiators will not be constrained by the bill that passed the Senate HELP Committee and the Senate Finance Committee legislation. This process is not transparent and Senator Orrin Hatch complained that “the real bill is currently being written behind closed doors in the dark corners of the Capitol and the White House.” Bottom line is that the American people will not be allowed to read the bill, until the elite negotiators decide to allow the American people to view it.
It is expected that the Senate will still move to a House passed tax bill and offer a complete substitute Amendment being the Obamacare bill being written right now somewhere in the Capitol. There is no way to know if Senator Reid will use his powers as leader to block amendments or to block the open amendment procedure to only allow leadership approved amendments to receive a vote. It is expected to be a long debate on the Senate floor and it may last well right up to the Senate recess for Thanksgiving.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is aiming to bring the House version of Obamacare to the floor “later this month.” After the House and Senate pass a bill, if they both pass a bill, the leadership is talking about conferencing the two bills. A conference committee will be another opportunity for the White House, Senate Leadership and House Leadership to craft a bill reconciling the two versions. Also, this would give the leadership the opportunity to kick out Republicans, as they did on the stimulus plan, and craft a bill inserting controversial provisions that don’t make it into the House and Senate plans. It is possible to add a controversial Public Option for health insurance in a conference, therefore bypassing some very painful votes on the Senate and House floor.
There are serious problems with this plan. First, after the experience that Republicans had with the Obama Stimulus plan, why would Senators allow this bill to go to conference? In the Senate, it takes 3 debatable (therefore filibusterable) motions to get the Senate to appoint conferees. Usually these motions are waived by unanimous consent, but one Senator could block conferees by objecting to an agreement. Both Republicans and Democrats have objected to conferees in the past on controversial measures to prevent a conference.
If they can’t get this risky plan implemented on schedule, they are still in a position to use Congress’ Secret Plan to pass Obamacare without a conference. The Senate Leadership has put this bill in a position that the House could take up the bill intact, pass and send to the President. CNS News reported that there is evidence in the House and Senate that Plan B is still available if the current publicly disclosed strategy breaks down.
Spokesman for Senator Harry Reid told Chris Frates of Politico that there is no single bullet scenario. “Don’t waste your time thinking about that idea anymore. What we will end up doing will be much more painful and prolonged,” said Ried spokesman Jim Manley. The big question for America is what they do if conservatives block the appointment of conferees or if the bill implodes on the Senate or House floor.