Live from the Senate Finance Committee Mark-up
During the Senate Finance Committee mark up of the Baucus health bill today Senator Bunning of Kentucky put forth an innovative amendment. This amendment stipulated that before voting on the measure in Committee, legislative language would have to be accessible to the public for 72 hours and that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) would need to publish an official tally of how much this bill will cost the American people and what the real impact will be on health costs.
There are several key points to the importance of this amendment that have to be highlighted:
The amendment failed 11-12 on nearly a party line vote. Senator Blanche Lincoln (AR) was the sole Democrat to support this attempt at transparency. The bottom line: when the committee completes its work on this re-make of one-sixth of our economy, Senators will have voted on a phantom – a bill that does not exist with costs that are unknowable until, that is, the unelected legislative draftsmen write the real bill in some back room on Capitol Hill.
Right now, the media that is covering every twist and turn of the committee’s “mark up” has ignored this quaint Senate tradition and what it means. Weren’t we taught after all, in our high school civics classes that lawmakers work on laws, not vague concepts? And where is all the analysis of the implications of this tradition on the calls for transparency? And what of the growing demands from citizens that lawmakers read the bill before voting for it? What if there is no bill to read?
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