Simon Says: Next Time, Try Listening

April 5, 2017 Tami Simon JD

Sad.

That’s the word that came to mind after House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., declined to bring the GOP replacement health care reform measure to the House floor for a vote. The yea votes just weren’t there.

Remember the old days, when Republicans and Democrats worked together in developing legislation, held hearings so lawmakers could get input from outside experts, and only then scheduled votes on the legislation?

“If you want important legislation to pass, both political parties should be involved in the process and there should be public discussion – before votes.” Tami Simon, JD, Global Practice Leader, Knowledge Resource Center

Not only did that approach improve the likelihood of legislation winning passage, it also – since God knows neither party has a monopoly on good ideas – resulted in better legislation and laws.

Alas, that wasn’t the GOP approach on the American Health Care Act. Instead, almost immediately after the bill was introduced, House committees voted on the measure. The full House vote would have been only two weeks after the bill was unveiled. No hearings with outside experts were held.

Unfortunately, there is a precedent here. While numerous hearings were held following the introduction of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the weeks preceding final passage were anything but open. Indeed, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., acknowledged as much with her comment—made before final ACA passage – that “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.”

Hopefully, in the wake of the withdrawal of the GOP health reform measure, the Trump administration and the GOP have recognized a basic tenet of political science: If you want important legislation to pass, both political parties should be involved in the process and there should be public discussion – before votes. Already, it appears that the president may be reaching across the aisle and welcoming Democrats to more fully engage in the legislative process the next time around.

Perhaps lawmakers will also hold public hearings. If that lesson is learned, the disappointing result of the American Health Care Act not being brought to a vote will have accomplished something far more valuable than anyone could have imagined.

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