So what just happened here?

The Senate voted to start debate on the health care bill. But take a close look at the bill they will debating:

Purpose: In the nature of a substitute.
H. R. 3590
To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modify the first-time homebuyers credit in the case of members of the Armed Forces and certain other Federal employees, and for other purposes.

Referred to the Committee on _____ and ordered to be printed

Ordered to lie on the table and to be printed

AMENDMENT IN THE NATURE OF A SUBSTITUTE intended to be proposed by Mr. REID (for himself, Mr. BAUCUS,
Mr. DODD, and Mr. HARKIN)


Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the following:

(a) SHORT TITLE.—This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’’.
(b) TABLE OF CONTENTS.—The table of contents of this Act is as follows:

Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.

I know some of you think I’m overly wonky sometimes, but I don’t have a clue what’s going on here. Why would Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid choose this approach – a cut and paste – on such an important issue?

Help! If you have an answer, sans spin, let me know. I’m going to do some research to try to understand procedurally what’s happening. If I’m missing something obvious, for goodness sakes, be nice about it when you put me in my place. 😉


  1. Hmmm. To reduce the voting to one round? Read this.

    Oh wait! I get it:

    The aide explained that the health care bill will contain tax provisions and that because the Constitution allows only the House to originate revenue bills, the health care bill must originate in the House. To comply with that constitutional mandate, the Senate must attach its version of the health-care bill to a tax bill that has already passed the House.

    Comforting, huh?

  2. What do you mean, “Comforting, huh?” The Senate has been doing this for, what, 220 years? I mean, literally.

  3. Well howdy, folkbum.

    Actually, I was going to do a longer piece on this for the afternoon, but no one bit on the first post, so I blew it off.

    First, I’ll suggest you sound defensive on the subject of the Senate using a shell bill to propose such sweeping change. Next, if the Senate has really been at it for 220 years, I’d enjoy a link to your proof.

    The research I did suggested the founding fathers wrote that thing called the constitution with the idea the House be given the responsibility for taxing. The House was thought to be closer to the people because of that elected representation. The Senate was not directly elected until 1913. It does appear the Senate has used this method in the past to proffer measures that incurred taxation.

    I’d argue such a power grab in an attempt the circumvent the constitution isn’t very comforting anytime it’s used. And yes, I’m fully aware both sides have tried it before.

  4. The very first revenue-raising bill, a tariff act, was signed into law (ironically? coincidentally?) on July 4, 1789, and it had been substantially changed by the Senate from the version the House had passed–it was also the first bill requiring a conference committee to resolve the differences.

  5. Oh, so I see you are choosing to confuse the two. Yes, bills are substantially changed by the Senate. What this bill does however is completely ignore the original content and slide in a whole separate bill. Not apples to apples by any stretch of your imagination.

  6. Cindy, I could not find easy reference to the first time the Senate literally subbed in a bill–my guess would be not long after the standing committee on finance was first formed in 1816–but the point is that the Senate has always had to de- and reconstruct House bills to get its own agenda accomplished.

    (Oops. Edit removed.)

  7. Ah Folkbum. From knowing to guessing. At least you admit it!