Friday, September 25, 2009

Sen. Bunning’s Transparency Amendment a delay tactic?

I have been watching the Senate Finance Committee meetings over the past few days and it has been very entertaining. Sen. Baucus is getting his time in the spotlight and is making the most of it. Much of the amendment voting has gone along party lines. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-NY) issued an amendment on Wednesday that would have required that a final and complete cost analysis be completed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). In addition to making the CBO analysis public the amendment would require the Senate Finance Committee to post the final bill for 72 hours prior to voting on it. Sen. Bunning defended his amendment by saying, "This bill will affect every American and I think it is our duty to provide full disclosure of all the facts. I don't see anything wrong with the committee taking a few extra weeks to ensure we get this right and so that all members of Congress and the public are given the opportunity to read the language and know what the true cost is."

Sen. Bunning's amendment makes sense. A similar bill was offered in the House that would have required members of the House of Representatives to wait 72 hours to ensure everyone had an opportunity to read any bill prior to passage. Why are Democrats in such a hurry to pass legislation that will have far reaching affects? Everyone agrees that health care reform is needed and as the president has said, 80% of the reform is agreed upon it is just the final 20% that is in question. While President Obama has championed transparency then why the Senate Finance Committee, and the rest of Congress doesn't, not adopt a 72 hour "reading" period prior to passing any legislation.

In respect to the Bunning amendment, Sen. John Kerry (D-Ma) claimed the amendment, "fundamentally a delay tactic". Where is this delay tactic? If the bill is complete and ready for vote, why not allow the CBO to score the bill and allow the public to see the bill? In order for the CBO to properly score any bill they require full legislative language to be completed. Sen. Snowe (R-Me), the only real hope on the Finance Committee for bipartisan action, was visibly frustrated during the debate of the Bunning amendment. "I don't understand the resistance," said Sen. Snowe. She went on to question, "What is the rush? Is there something happening in two weeks that we cannot wait?"

Sen. Baucus rush is to get a bill to the floor of the Senate before October 15th when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed (D-Nv) warned that reconciliation will be considered if major progress has not be made. If Sen. Reed is serious in using a procedural move, meant for budget issues, to complete passage of health care reform, that is the rush or the "happening" that Sen. Snowe is inquiring about. It is time for Congress to put aside partisan politics and procedural moves and enact true reform that includes choice, drives down cost, and includes tort reform. Unfortunately none of the bills being discussed does all of this.