By Alex Clift
If you’ve been following the various committee mark-ups on health reform bills during the past month, you’ve heard a lot about comparative effectiveness research, rationing, the unbendable cost curve, en bloc amendments and CBO scores.
If you haven’t been following the mark-up process, well, you should.
Listening to committee mark-ups of a bill, especially a landmark health reform bill, is a GREAT opportunity to hear what your legislators think about community health centers and issues that are important to us, and what their own personal priorities are. It can give you insight into what advocacy tactics and talking points to use when you’re working with staff and electeds, and it may give you the chance to thank your Representative for supporting the health center program.
Not sure how to watch these riveting discussions between Members of Congress? Here’s what you need to know to follow the rest of the mark-ups:
To watch any of the health reform bill mark-up sessions live, or to replay the feed at your convenience (the transcript’s searchable too!), visit C-SPAN’s live feeds or video library. It may take a little searching to catch the right feed (sessions may be on C-SPAN1, 2 or 3, depending on the chamber and the time of day), but if there is a mark-up, C-SPAN has it and they’re keeping it in their archives for future viewing.
You can also watch the mark-up sessions on the various committee websites. Most of the committee provide a link to C-SPAN as well, in case you have trouble getting the feed, but the committees are posting relevant information as the mark-ups move along, so it’s worth checking them all out. 3 of the 5 Congressional committees of jurisdiction have already passed a bill out of committee (Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions, House Ways and Means and House Education and Labor). Each of their websites still features playable and downloadable recordings of the mark-up sessions they held and additional information on the bills as considered by the committee. The committees still at various stages of mark-up are:
- House Energy and Commerce Committee. Their website has a page for each day of the mark-up with links to all of the amendments considering during the session and how the votes totted up, including the text of en bloc amendments (amendments that are considered together) and managers’ amendments (submitted by the committee chair). E&C also hosts letters of support for the House bill, communication and scores from the CBO and other useful info. The committee may finish their mark-up and pass the bill out this week, but the pages will stay up for reference.
- Senate Finance Committee. This will be the last committee to move any legislation forward and they haven’t yet released a bill, so we’re not quite sure how or when their mark-up will take place. Based on previous mark-ups and hearings from SFC, the session will probably be fed through their website, when the time comes, and it will certainly be on C-SPAN (probably C-SPAN3).
The committees typically start morning sessions at 10AM (Eastern) and go until lunchtime, or until they recess for floor votes. Over the last month, afternoon sessions have gone until seven or eight, or midnight or 1AM, so you can tune in and listen to the (occationally heated) congressional banter and Yeas and Neas regardless of your time zone. Remember to check the committee websites for updates about where they are in the mark-up process and when they are scheduled to meet next.