Right now we are getting a glimpse into the reasons why the legislative process has been compared to watching sausage being made. In the Senate, five committees deliberated and produced bills, and then Senate leaders went behind closed doors and produced a proposed bill that includes an “opt-out” government plan that, so far as I can determine, wasn’t in any of the five bills. The obvious reason for the “compromise” was to try to come up with an approach that placates liberals who are demanding that the legislation include a government plan but also has the chance to attract the votes of moderates who are leery of a “public option.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is now trying to make sure that Senate Democrats have the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and pass a health care reform bill — and it seems that, at this point, Democratic leaders would be happy to pass just about any bill that could be called a health care reform bill. So, he is making further modifications to the bill that are specifically designed to get the votes of hesitant Senators, one by one. According to the linked article, Reid has agreed to cut a tax that would have had a special impact on a company in Indiana, apparently in an effort to get the vote of Senator Evan Bayh. We can expect to see more of this kind of unseemly, individualized wheedling and horse trading.
In the House, where passage of a bill with some kind of non-opt-in public option seems assured, the debate is over how the public option will set the rates to be paid to doctors and hospitals for care. Should it be done by government fiat, or by “negotiation”?
There is one significant difference between legislative politicking and sausage-making. Although the process and ingredients used to make a sausage may upset the tender sensibilities of some people, the end result usually tastes pretty darn good. The legislative process, on the other hand, can produce a monstrosity filled with unfunded mandates, poorly conceived and ill-considered requirements, objectively nonsensical exceptions, and phony budget impact estimates — to the point where purported “reform” legislation is more appalling and Frankensteinian than the existing reality.