Obama Underlines Importance of Conference Committee

]US Capitol Building

Like various other progressive bloggers, I had the privilege of being on a conference call with Barack Obama yesterday in the late afternoon. In addition to the point flagged by Faiz Shakir about the public plan and Jonathan Singer about reconciliation, something subtle that struck me was what the President said about the procedural steps. He was pointing to the fact that with a piece of legislation this complicated, it’s absolutely inevitable that the House and Senate are going to pass substantially different bills and there will need to be a conference committee. Thus, on the contentious points the ultimate issue is not what is or isn’t in the Finance Committee bill or the floor of the Senate, but what the conferees do.

Obama didn’t say this explicitly, but the clear implication is that in the initial round of bargaining it’s sort of not that important what’s in the Senate version of the bill. The important thing is to keep the process moving forward. Get something voted out of the Finance Committee, then get something to the floor of the Senate, then get something passed the Senate. If and only if that happens, you then get to the stage where you write the real bill and then you have the real legislative fight, the battle to get the real bill passed the Senate. The key thing for now is to make sure we reach that point.

UPDATE: Catching up on stuff I missed last night, I now see that Ezra Klein picked out the exact same point.