Author’s note: This blog contains more metaphors than considered healthy.
CNN Senior National Editor
I confess to not having read the entire 1,000 pages-plus that make up the bill at the base of the current debate, a proposal being torn apart and rebuilt by three committees in the House and two in the Senate in a time-honored and time-consuming process often derisively referred to as “sausage-making.”
Not to mention the debate ongoing in often raucous online and public forums.
As Dr. Bernadine Healey cautioned in U.S. News & World Report, “Reading H.R. 3200 is not like curling up with Harry Potter. “ It certainly is not, though for some people the current debate seems to pit good vs. evil (which is left to the individual). If you’ve never read a piece of legislation, take a gander at this heavyweight.
I receive dozens of pieces of mail on health care daily from think tanks, newspapers, blogs and groups with a variety of interests and perspectives on the subject. I read as many of these as I can but, you know, there is other news of import (the economy, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the prospects for peace in the Middle East, education and a return of the flu).
I’ll pass on metaphoric reference to the legislative process resembling a meat grinder in favor of what one author called “the dance of legislation.” In this case, the dance resembles the mosh pit at a head-banging hardcore rock concert more than the slow, precise movements of a waltz.
Eventually – perhaps – the House and Senate each will produce a bill.
Then comes the slam dance known as a conference committee, where the heavyweights from the two sides of Capitol Hill attempt to produce a single measure to be taken back to the full House and Senate and – if approved – sent to the President.
Little happens on Capitol Hill without a dollar tag attached and if money is the mother’s milk of politics when it comes to health care issues the flow is unending and quite rich.
A former colleague with a wicked sense of humor offered this thought: “I still like the idea of making Congressmen wear suits with the names of all of their commercial contributors on them. NASCAR democracy!!” Considering all of the money from all of the sources to all of the members of Congress, especially those writing the legislation – and we’re talking about millions of dollars here – that’s not a bad idea.
If you want to read up on all of this lobbying largesse, let me recommend two sources: The Sunlight Foundation and OpenSecrets.org, the Center for Responsive Politics.
Continuing with the theme of comparisons, trying to keep up with minutia in the health care story leaves me feeling like Bogie dragging “The African Queen” through the high water and marsh.
Okay, that may be a bit beyond exaggeration but my bar for a complicated story is the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Keeping track of the religious and ethnic factions and the geography they occupied as that patchwork nation broke apart became my standard for a story that required effort to comprehend.
Then came Iraq and shifting alliances among the Shi’a, Sunnis and Kurds as the U.S. and allied forces struggled to meet a mission of bringing some semblance of democratic government to a land fractured along religious, ethnic and tribal lines.
Well, the devilish details in health care reform makes Yugoslavia and Iraq resemble a child’s jig-saw puzzle.
The House and Senate are in recess.
That gives the Congressmen and Senators the better part of a month to put their feet up on the sofa or dig them into the sand and read the 1,000 or so pages . . . when they’re not spending quality time in quiet conversation with their constituents.
Or taking a long flight out of the country. The 1,000 pages are just the thing to pass a long plane flight to another country.
Yes, it’s pretty thick stuff but – and here we go again – the sausage being made will be served to all of us so it’s best we know what’s on our plate . . . and how it got there.
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