|Where do we go from here?|
by James Wagoner, President, Advocates for Youth
More than with any recent bill in Congress, this fight over health care reform is as much about legislative procedure as it is about the substance of the bill itself.
The Senate is likely to pass its version of health care reform in the next few weeks – without new, unnecessary restrictions on abortion coverage, but with $50 million in restored funding for ineffective and ideologically driven abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
After that, the Senate bill must be merged with the health care reform bill passed by the House of Representatives last month… And here’s where it gets tricky.
• go through its normal (and potentially lengthy) conference process, though this leaves approval of the final bill open to a filibuster in the Senate and would likely require 60 votes to pass
• use a second process known “reconciliation” that would force through changes more quickly but with limited input and debate from all sides; this would require only 50 votes to approve a final bill in the Senate, but would therefore likely be met with political histrionics from reform opponents
• pass the bill via a “ping pong” process in which the Senate finalizes its bill through a “manager’s amendment,” after which House re-votes on the exact Senate bill before immediately sending on a final version to President Obama
The honest answer here in Washington is that we don’t yet know which way Democratic leaders in Congress will decide to go. We’re getting strong reports from Capitol Hill that the Senator Reid is leaning towards the last option, as it is the only way to guarantee passage before Congress breaks for the holidays.
None of these options is perfect – and our work is far from complete.
If the current Senate legislation becomes the final health care reform bill, then we’re stuck with the return of abstinence-only funding. And while the House version doesn’t pose that particular problem, it does have the Stupak Amendment abortion restrictions in place.
Done right, health care reform could dramatically improve the lives of millions upon millions of Americans. But, if we trade away the health and lives of young people or women in the process, we risk setting the entire country along a dangerous path.
Advocates for Youth will continue to keep you updated as the process unfolds…