Apparently Senate Democrats have built a number of "entrenchment" provisions in the health care bill attempting to limit the ability of future Congresses to modify the law:
Jonathan notes that the health care bill includes certain "entrenchment" provisions, and asks, "can the current Senate bind future Senates in this way?" If I understand the bill correctly, it creates an independent board that recommends ways to limit Medicare payments. These recommendations go to the president, who in turn is supposed to submit them to Congress. Congressional procedures are likewise constrained. The Senate, for example, cannot debate the proposal for more than 30 hours; there are limits on House procedures as well. The idea seems to be to constrain filibustering and other parliamentary maneuvers that would defeat cost-saving legislation in the future. As Jonathan notes, the bill further provides that these constraints cannot be overturned by majority rule but require a 2/3 supermajority.
A couple of thoughts:
- I expect future Congressmen to be no less arrogant than current Congressmen, so there is little chance they will allow themselves to be bound by this
- Do Democrats really think that they have gone through such a thoughtful and deliberative process in creating this bill that no future Congress can improve on it?
- This has been tried, e.g. on balanced budget stuff. It never works. Even the 60-vote cloture rule could be tossed out in a second -- it is public opinion and concern for future periods when the ruling party in the minority that prevents change, not law
- This is particularly hilarious as while this bill was being debated, there was a commission of experts that did make a recommendation of the type they are looking for in the future - in this case to limit screening of breast cancers for women under 50. And Congress immediately overrode this recommendation with specific language in this very legislation. No way Congress will allow itself to be bound by some unelected commission in the Administration, particularly when the two are inevitably controlled by different parties.