The bill must now go to a conference committee to resolve significant differences between the House and Senate versions. And history shows that agreement is far from guaranteed.
In fact, just last year, a bill reforming the Indian Health Service died when the conference committee couldn’t overcome its differences on abortion. Similarly, in 2007, bills dealing with issues as varied as campaign‐finance reform, corporate pensions and closing tax loopholes passed both chambers but never became law.
In some cases, the conference committee deadlocked. In others, the House and Senate couldn’t even agree on whom to appoint to the committee. And in a highly publicized battle early in the Bush administration, both the House and Senate passed legislation opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, but the conference committee could never find language acceptable to both chambers. The bill died, and ANWR remains closed to drilling.
It’s important to remember that the House bill passed with just three votes to spare and the Senate bill received exactly the 60 votes needed for passage. Democratic leaders have little room to maneuver as they try to resolve such issues as:
The Public Option: The Senate rejected the concept of a government‐run insurance plan to compete with private insurance. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I‐Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D‐Neb.) made it clear that inclusion of the so‐called public option would cause them to join a Republican filibuster. They are justifiably concerned that a taxpayer‐subsidized government plan would drive private insurance out of the market and lead to a single‐payer government‐run system.
But the House did include a public option — and retaining it has become the top priority for the Dems’ liberal wing. Public‐option advocates seemed willing to go along with a proposed Medicare “buy‐in” for those 55 to 64, but even that compromise was dropped from the final Senate bill. Now Rep. Anthony Weiner (D‐Brooklyn), among others, has made it clear his vote is in doubt if the final bill does not include some form of public option. And such liberal activist groups as Moveon.org have promised to spend the holiday vacation pressuring their allies to fight for the public option.
Taxes: Both the House and Senate versions contain huge tax hikes, but they take completely different approaches toward which taxes are hiked and who would pay them.