Civics class: Where is the House-Senate health care conference committee? 

Today's Washington Post Outlook section gives featured lefty blogger Ezra Klein another shot at the supposedly dysfunctional workings of the Senate. "As the minority becomes less responsible with the filibuster (and oh boy, have minority Republicans become less responsible with the filibuster), the majority needs to use reconciliation more often," Klein writes.

The article begins:

Ask a kid who just took civics how a bill becomes a law and she'll explain that Congress takes a vote and, if a majority supports the bill, the bill goes to the president. That's what we teach in textbooks, but it's not what we practice in Washington.

Now, if you did in fact ask a kid who just took a civics class, she -- could be he! -- might explain that the House and Senate pass bills, and if there are differences between them, the bills usually go to a House/Senate conference committee, where lawmakers appointed by the leaders of both parties resolve the differences between the bills and come up with one final bill, which the House and Senate pass and which then goes to the president's desk for signature into law. (Wasn't that the method used for the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, the 1996 welfare reform bill and other legislation often cited by Klein and his allies today?) Isn't that what a kid who just took a civics class would say? Isn't that what we teach in textbooks? And is that what's being practiced in the case of the national health care bills?

The answer, of course, is no, because Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid, who in the past have been strong advocates of conference committees, decided to skip conference for the health care bill. Why? Because it might be troublesome -- and public. Better to bypass it altogether, assured that Klein and others will devote their energies to attacking Republican irresponsibility.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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