House Democrats, as Dan Foster notes over in On The News, “will very likely bypass the standard conference process on the health-care bill and instead ‘negotiate informally’ in an effort to preempt the procedural maneuvers Republicans used to extend debate in the Senate.” This bouncing-bill gambit is what Hill staffers call legislative “ping pong.” As John Fund says, such a move would be “the latest example of [Democrats] violating principles of transparency and accountability in the single-minded pursuit of legislative victory.” For the moment, Speaker Pelosi has yet to announce her plans, but that hasn’t stopped House Republicans from beginning to dig the trenches for what could be a long battle. “Something as critical as the Democrats’ health-care bill, with its Medicare cuts and tax hikes, shouldn’t be slapped together in a shady backroom deal,” Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, tells National Review Online. “Skipping a real, open conference shuts out the American people and breaks one of President Obama’s signature campaign promises. It would be a disgrace — to the Democratic leaders if they do it, and to every Democratic member who lets them.” It’s worth noting that Florida GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan has introduced a resolution (H.R. 847) to require any Obamacare negotiations to be broadcast on C-SPAN. Predictably, Pelosi has blocked action on it.
Then again, Pelosi’s ping-pong push could still get paddled. As Philip Klein notes:
It’s important to keep in mind that it won’t just be Republicans who are clamoring for conference committee, but a lot of liberals, too. Many on the left begrudgingly expressed support for passing the Senate bill in the hopes that they could make one last stand during conference talks, and I think Democrats may have to give them that opportunity, if nothing else but for show.
Across the pond, the Guardian’s Michael Tomasky is scratching his head:
The Senate people say X. Then the House people say Y. And so on. This is called “ping-ponging” the bill, since it goes back and forth between the two sides. (Do you folks sometimes call table tennis ping-pong, as we do?) . . . This freezes Republicans out, no doubt about it. Fair? Well, maybe not.
Indeed. All of this racket over the Left’s table-tennis spin reminds me of that great line from 1994’s Forrest Gump, where the hero becomes obsessed with the game and remarks: “I played ping pong even when I didn’t have anyone to play ping pong with.” Pelosi, it seems, should be careful of going Gump.