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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

They Don’t Like Each Other

A problem that seems to be getting lost in the current confusion over the fate of health reform legislation is something that has little to do with party or ideology, much less with the details of health policy. It’s cameralism. To put it simply, members of the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate have very different perspectives, mistrust each other’s motives, and rarely communicate. In general, they don’t much like each other. They live and work in two very different institutional cultures, and with the exception of House veterans serving in the Senate, they don’t go to much trouble to find out how the other chamber functions.
Much of the time this “cameralism” is background noise in the legislative process. But when it comes to the kind of highly complex, trust-based maneuvers that health care reformers are talking about this week–you know, House passes Senate bill with assurance that Senate passes bill “fixing” their own bill via budget reconciliation, somewhere down the road–it’s a real problem that can’t just be wished away. And that’s particularly true in an environment requiring almost total agreement among Democrats in both Houses. Maybe that’s one reason the White House is talking about a “cooling off” period on health care reform.

3 comments on “They Don’t Like Each Other

  1. Mutuelle on

    Is the president really establishing some leadership styles?Obama campaign on bringing people together s a good iniatiative!He must work over it!

  2. George Ortega on

    To the extent your analysis is on target, there seems a fairly easy remedy. Obama campaigned on bringing people together. He should start with his own senators and representatives, by hosting regular (every other week) gatherings where groups of them (depending on their committees, states, etc.) can meet and discuss strategy.
    Psychology 101 will tell you that as these guys and gals begin getting to know each other, their mutual dislike will begin to melt away.

  3. pjcamp on

    Oh, if only there were a president who could exercise some leadership over the party, issue a few dope slaps, and make sure that each house does what it needs to do.
    I guess we’ll never know what might have been.


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