When on house of a legislative body like Congress passes one version of a bill and the other passes a different version, a conference committee is set up.
When W. Robert Blair was Illinois House Speaker from during my first term in Springfield (1973-75), there were actual meetings. I had some bills that went to conference committee and was actually put on the committee.
Later speakers just had staff members bring around whatever they wanted to put on the House floor for a vote soliciting signatures of reliable conference committee appointees.
According to an NPR segment I heard yesterday, most of the differences in the health care reform legislation will be decided by having a Democratic Party staffer from the Senate meet with his or her counterpart from the House.
The major differences will be determined by actual Democratic legislators meeting in person, but behind closed doors.
The Democratic Party apologist being interviewed said that was fair because no Republicans in the Senate and only one in the House had voted for the bills in question.
I seem to remember a campaign pledge from President Barack Obama that such negotiations would be held in public. C-SPAN coverage..
Now comes 16th District Congressman Don Manzullo with a call for negotiations to be in open session. Here is his press release:
Manzullo Signs Petition to Force Open Health Care Talks
Resolution would require Democrat leaders to negotiate bill in public
[WASHINGTON] Congressman Don Manzullo (R-IL) today joined many of his colleagues in signing onto a discharge petition that would force Democrat leaders to come out from the shroud of secrecy and start negotiating the massive health care bill in public.
The resolution, H.Res. 847, would require Congressional Democrat leaders and the Administration to start negotiating the health care bill in a public forum open to the media.
So far, 151 Members of Congress have signed the petition. Once that number reaches 218, Democrat leaders would have to open the talks to the public.
Since the House and Senate approved different versions of the bill in November and December, Democrat leaders from the House, Senate and Obama Administration have been holed up behind closed doors trying to work out a compromise version of the bill to present to the President for his signature.
On the campaign trail last year, then-Sen. Barack Obama pledged that
health care reform negotiations would be broadcast on C-SPAN so the “American people will know what’s going on.”
On Dec. 30, C-SPAN called on congressional leaders to carry out President Obama’s “C-SPAN pledge” and allow coverage of the health care talks. Two weeks later, the talks are still behind closed doors.
“In all my years in Congress, I have never seen an issue that has invoked as many constituent calls and as much emotion as this health care issue.
“It has the potential to affect every American and dramatically change the way health care services are paid for and delivered in our country. With this much at stake, Democrat leaders should honor the President’s campaign pledge and allow C-SPAN coverage of the negotiations so all Americans can see what could affect them for the rest of their lives.”