House Bill H.R 3200

Many members of the Energy and Commerce Committee were unable to offer their amendments to H.R. 3200 during the abbreviated mark-up process.  Pursuant to an agreement with Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), the Committee will either reconvene in September to allow the members to offer their amendments, or the Rules Committee will allow the members to offer their amendments on the floor.  There were approximately 75 remaining amendments that were filed or, by agreement, were still under consideration.

The Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor Committees all marked up and reported out H.R. 3200.  As a result, House leadership will need to find a way to reconcile differing versions of the bill across the committees. In some cases, they will also need to reconcile differing versions of amendments within the same committee.   For instance, the Energy and Commerce Committee adopted two different conscience clause amendments: one from Rep. Stupak [D-MI], and one from Rep. Capps [D-CA].)

This process will likely consume the month of September. Once there is a unified House health care bill, H.R. 3200 will go to the Rules Committee where the Committee will determine the rules under which the bill may be considered by the full House.  Rules generally govern the number of amendments which can be offered, how much debate will be allowed on the bill, and what procedures will govern the voting process.

After the Rules Committee has reported the bill out, the bill will move to the full House for consideration. We expect this to occur in early October.  At that point, assuming an open rule, all members of the House, including those who may have already offered unsuccessful amendments in a committee, may offer amendments to the bill to be voted on by the whole House.

When and if the bill passes the full House, the House leadership will choose conferees. These are House members who will represent the House in a conference with the Senate during which the two bodies try to reconcile the  versions of the bills that each body has passed.

Senate HELP Bill

The Senate HELP bill was marked up and reported out of Committee before the August recess.  However, the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare and the means by which health care reform will be financed, has not released its version of the bill.  The Senate Finance Committee bill is expected to include the offsets which will pay for the health care reforms , as well as compromise language on the “public” health care plan option.

Once the Senate Finance Committee releases its bill and conducts its mark up (the Senate Finance Committee marks up “in concept” rather than with specific amendments), the Senate leadership will need to reconcile the HELP version of the bill with the Finance version.This process is expected to occur in mid to late September.

Once there is a unified Senate health care reform bill, the full Senate will consider  the bill on the Senate floor.  At that point, all Senators, including those who may have already offered unsuccessful amendments in Committee, may offer amendments to the bill to be voted on by the whole Senate. We expect this to occur around October.

When and if the bill passes the full Senate, the Senate leadership will choose conferees. These are senators who will represent the Senate in a conference with the House during which the two bodies try to reconcile the differing versions of the bills that each body has passed.

Conference

The House and Senate conferees will work together to try to reconcile the House version of the bill with the Senate version of the bill.  A conference can go smoothly and move quickly, or  can require long periods of deliberation and compromise.  Senate and House leadership may choose conferees without diverse beliefs, which would enable them to remove provisions in the bill that they do not like without resistance.  For example, if there are no pro-life conferees, the conscience protection added to H.R. 3200 will certainly be removed.  The White House will also weigh in heavily at this time, urging the conferees to make changes to the bill that fit their agenda.  We expect this process to take many weeks, consuming November and December.

Final Passage

Once a bill is agreed upon in conference, the conference bill is sent back to both the House and Senate for final passage.  The House and Senate will each have to conduct another vote on the bill in order to pass the bill along to the President to sign into law.  The earliest this is likely to occur is late December.

President’s Signature

In order to the bill to become a law, President Obama would need to sign the finalized health care legislation.

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