Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why are we skirting the Conference Committee for health care reform?

Yesterday President Obama went on the offensive for a final push on Democrats plan for health care reform at Arcadia University near Philadelphia. The speech was fiery and brought back memories of the type of speeches Obama gave during his election. The goal set by Obama is to have a reform bill on his desk prior to the Easter break. While we all can agree that reform is required in the health care industry to bring down costs and reduce premiums. President Obama has it right when he said, "The price of health care is one of the most punishing costs for families, businesses and our government. The insurance companies continue to ration health care…That's the status quo in America, and it's a status quo that's unsustainable" (http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/03/08/health.care/index.html?hpt=T2).

I do not think anyone, Republican or Democrat, will disagree with the assessment by Obama. Even though Obama appears to think differently when he said, "You had 10 years. What were you doing?" That is a great question but should not be the reason to forge forward with the Senate's version of reform. A few weeks back leaders from both parties sat down for a six-hour chat to come to a common ground on health care reform. Now the current Senate bill does not contain the items the Republicans spoke of during the summit. The message yesterday by Obama was the first time he was clear about the process to follow moving forward to achieve reform. Obama wants the House of Representatives to pass the Senate bill as is then after Obama signs the bill they will go back and "fix" the bill.

Why not use the process established to reconcile bills that pass Congress when language is different? The Conference Committee is supposed to convene when the bills differ and then re-introduced for both chambers of Congress to pass. Instead of this process the Obama administration wants to end run the process because they lost their filibuster-proof super majority in the Senate. Obama claims that his administration is doing what is best for America; yet Americans are voicing opposition to the bill through the election in Massachusetts and polling data too. If the reform is strong enough and is bipartisan the filibuster threat in the Senate by Republicans will be for not. Sen. Brown (R-Mass) has already proven that he will not play partisan politics.

I agree with President Obama that the status quo cannot be sustained. At the same time, I cannot support the use of reconciliation to pass legislation that will impact America like health care nor can I support the House of Representatives passing the Senate bill as is in hopes that a separate package of changes will be introduced and passed. The arrogance of our elected Representatives to think that Americans do not see what is going on is staggering. Since the U.S. Constitution was ratified it has been treaded on. We need to stand up to our two-party system and demand more from our elected officials. President Obama, I agree with you reform is needed, please do not follow the path of passage you profess rather allow the Conference Committee to make the changes and have both chambers of Congress vote on it. What is wrong with following this approach?