HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ezra Klein on the Senate Finance Committee

Ezra Klein, now writing at the Washington Post, has a brief post on the Senate Finance Committee and its importance to health care reform legislation.  He writes,

You hear a lot about the "how" of health care reform. You hear a fair amount about the "who" of it. You even get some "when." But you don't hear that much about the "where." But the "where" matters. And the where, somewhat confusingly, is primarily the Senate Finance Committee -- the same committee chaired by Baucus.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that pushing health care reform through the United States Senate is harder than pushing it through the House of Representatives. The reason is simple enough: The filibuster. If House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could handle health reform on her own, the bill would be signed by lunchtime Wednesday.

The second has to do with the confusing composition of the Senate's committee. There is, after all, a more obvious committee where health reform could dock: The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. "Health," after all, isn't even that committee's middle name. It's its first name.

The catch, however, comes in rule XXV of the Senate, which contains the Senate Finance Committee's charter. Among its areas of jurisdiction: "Health programs under the Social Security Act and health programs financed by a specific tax or trust fund." Health programs, in other words, that will cost money. And health reform will cost money. If this were just a matter of insurance market reform -- or simple regulations, in other words -- the HELP committee could bear the burden on its own. But since reform requires money, they're the junior partner to the Finance Committee. . . .

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