Don't worry, folks, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama have health care reform all taken care of. No need for public committee meetings. No need for conference committees. The three top Democrats, with some key lieutenants, will just hash out the differences between the Senate and House reforms on their own, behind closed doors. We can presume they will also twist arms behind closed doors to ensure House and Senate Democrats stay in line and pass the bill before Obama's State of the Union speech in a few weeks.
Democratic aides said this week that Pelosi and Reid plan to negotiate a final compromise without Republicans at the table, and without the public watching. There will be no House-Senate conference committee, which is how differences between similar bills are usually worked out. With a conference committee, lawmakers from both parties and both chambers are in on the negotiations. And although much of that work is done privately, there are public meetings where fundamental information is shared.
Pelosi's and Reid's approach will no doubt be more efficient, and on one level is understandable: Appointing a formal conference committee would invite Republican filibusters, which could sidetrack reform indefinitely. But it is an undemocratic way of doing things and will only make the final package harder to sell to an already distrustful American public.
There are hundreds of differences between the House and Senate versions, including how to pay for it. The debate up to now has hardly instilled confidence in the policymaking process. And as flawed as the Democrats' plans have been, the Republicans have spent more time trying to derail reform than helping craft a better approach.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Charlotte Observer.