Where’s the Bill?

Member Group : From the Kitchen Table

Some members of the U.S. House and Senate are spending the month of August holding town meetings about the federal health care overhaul. They continue to express surprise at the level of anger and frustration they are seeing in their constituents.

In one case, the Senator asked the audience why they were so hostile. The audience replied, loudly and with many voices, that they did not trust the Senator. She said that she did not know what to do about it.

Here is a simple suggestion.

If an elected official comes to a meeting to discuss health care legislation, he or she should bring the legislation being discussed to the meeting. That way everyone can look at the actual language and know definitively what it says.
Instead, our elected officials offer only unsupported assertions that the concerns of American citizens are based on rumors and untruths. If their assertions are correct, there is no reason for our elected officials not to bring the health care bill to every town meeting and show us the truth of the matter.

It seems like such an obvious thing to do that a reasonable person might wonder why it has not occurred to the people who are receiving a barrage of outspoken negativity.

The answer lies in the fact that there isn’t "A Health Care Bill". There is an original House version, an original Senate version, which is different from the House version, and multiple mark-up versions from the various committees of each chamber. According to all reports, none of the mark-ups matches any other. The original versions can be found by using an Internet search, but the committee mark-ups are not available.

So any citizen looking at an original version is using language that has already been changed? Maybe. There is no way to know, definitely, which language has been changed or what it has been changed into. And Speaker Pelosi is on the record saying that she does not feel bound by any change that has been made by any committee.

It puts the citizen who is trying to get enough information to make an informed decision on health care in an impossible position.

So, let’s change the focus of the discussion. No citizen is trying to mandate any program to anyone. Congress is. The burden of proof should rest with them.

Meeting that burden needs to begin with our insistence that they produce the bill at every town hall meeting and back up every statement they make from its language. It also means that every change which has been proposed through committee mark-up must be made publicly available long enough for us to analyze it.

It is pointless, and insulting, for elected officials to expect hard-working American taxpayers to spend their time and effort dissecting detailed sections of one of the bills when those sections may have already been amended.
Congress is conducting a giant sleight of hand game. Like the prize in the street magician’s act, the actual language of the health care overhaul is hidden under a Congressional cup, but the citizens have to figure out which cup. And the cups keep moving.

When it comes to the health of America’s men and women, we deserve better than the tricks of Congressional illusionists. We deserve the facts.