CNN reported today that Democratic leadership in the House reached a deal with several “Blue Dog” Democrats to allow the Energy and Commerce Committee to resume its debate of the health care bill with a vote expected by the end of the week. The deal also reportedly puts off a vote by the full House until after the August recess.
President Obama and House and Senate Democratic leadership originally wanted both the House and Senate to approve the bill before the recess. Why?
Short deadlines tend to increase pressure and urgency and provide incentives to parties to accelerate the negotiation process. As a result, they are often used by those hurt by the passage of time and who don’t care much about a future relationship with their counterparts. Here, President Obama sought to capitalize on his early popularity, which has started to wane as the economic slowdown continues. Delay – especially over the August recess – will also allow opponents of the bill more time to publicly organize and resist passage. Bipartisanship also wasn’t a huge priority for President Obama.
Now that a vote on the bill most likely won’t occur until September at the earliest with President Obama’s new deadline for a bill on his desk by the end of the year, let’s consider the benefits of this new longer deadline. Longer deadlines decrease pressure and urgency. As a result, they are often used by those helped by the passage of time and/or those who want a future relationship with their counterparts. Longer deadlines also help those creatively working together to resolve mutual problems.
Here, the longer deadline allows Senate Democrats and Republicans time to potentially negotiate a bipartisan compromise. This longer deadline thus increases the likelihood of garnering support from moderate Senate Republicans.
Finally, with both sides of the aisle creatively working together, it might also result in a more thoughtful and ultimately effective piece of legislation.