Throughout the short history of the United States, in times of great need, Legislators pass landmark legislation in order to reestablish the upward direction of the country as a whole. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and his supporters fought to abolish slavery with an amendment to the Constitution.
Likewise, during the greatest economic downfall to ever sweep the country if not the world, Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed for entitlement programs to defend the liberties of the working class as well as develop governmental oversight to insure against any future collapse of financial institutions. While it is true that World War II was the catalyst that resuscitated the economy, Roosevelt’s New Deal was unequivocally the most extensive and impactful piece of legislation of the Twentieth Century. However, on March 23, 2010, more than a year after the beginning of deliberations for the bill, President Obama signed his “New Deal,” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), into law.
The political processes that brought about the passage of the ACA include the collaboration between the government bureaucracies and Congress, the use of committee systems in both houses of Congress to vote and decide upon the validity of the bill, and the election scheme to ensure enough votes to pass the bill once it came to a majority vote in the House and Senate. Through the analysis of these processes and using all additional resources available, it is possible to determine the actions inside and outside of the political sphere that resulted in the establishment of the Affordable Care Act.
The collaboration between government bureaucracies and Congress is essential to creating a stable base before any groundwork can be completed on the bill itself. There are of course behind the scenes actions within the White House prior to the bill being introduced, however, the first major milestone after the bill is announced to the public is the meeting of the White House agencies in a round table setting. According to the “Time Line of the Health Care Law” by Emily Smith, this is precisely what occurs.
Shortly after the announcement of the bill to the public by President Obama, there is a meeting within the White House labeled a “Summit” where the involved agencies hash out a plan and schedule milestone dates to meet and discuss progress in Congress. Thus begins the Executive and Legislative coalition that is the framework of much of American politics. The agencies report to their respective duties and go about the tasks that are set for them in relation to the bill.
Most namely, due to the creation of Federal Healthcare, the duties of one of the current agencies would have to be extended to create the proper office and oversight to enforce the regulations. As a result, the Department of the Treasury was tasked with the creation of the Federal Insurance Office and all Executive and Legislative oversight committees necessary to ensure smooth integration and establishment among the states. The Executive agency, which in this case is the Department of the Treasury, collaborates with the House and Senate to determine the implementation of oversight committees and the allocation of funds to the new programs.
All of the work done between the two branches of government is essential to the prevention of disaster within both the White House and Congress. The careful planning and synergism of the two branches allows for many of the concerns and issues to be discussed and remedied prior to the bill even reaching the floor of either house of Congress. With the groundwork laid by branch collaboration, the next step is the political dealings within the walls of Congress. The individual committees and round tables held within both houses of the bicameral Congress to determine the implementation and validity of the ACA was the next step towards its passage.
While the committee system is not a part of the original framework of United States Constitution, it has become an extremely important part of legal proceedings in the Nation’s capital. Originating in the House of Representatives in the first and second Houses of Representatives, committees were generated within the House of Representatives to break down all of the legislation decisions into specific categories so that they may be more closely attended to prior to a total House vote. The Senate followed suit shortly after although the first standing committees were not necessary for quite some time in the Senate due to a lighter workload.
During the early goings of the Affordable Care Act, the Senate initiated discussions with outside professionals and health advisors to determine the direction that needed to be taken regarding Health Care legislation and to specify the “language of the trade,” so to speak, to determine the exact verbiage for the bill (Smith 2). At the same time the bill is being deliberated in Committee, it is also undergoing an increasing amount of changes. Part of the Committee process and the political process as a whole is the amendment cycle.
The members of the Committees are, in the end, seeking out reelection and thus try to please their constituents whenever the option becomes available. During the Ping-Pong of bill debate, it becomes possible for members to “sell” their support. The magnitude of the ACA and the desire for bipartisan support made it an easy target for these so-called soft earmarks and by the time the bill emerged from the Senate’s committee, it contained over one hundred and sixty amendments both related and unrelated to Health Care.
The negotiations of the bill within both houses of Congress carried on with many versions being established and amendments being generated and eradicated at a measured pace. By the turn of the New Year, the Committees slowed and final versions of the ACA were sent to floor votes in both the House and Senate. Although the arguments over the ACA seemed to be drawing to a close, one of the most important political processes stood in the way of the final vote.
Committees may determine the condition of a bill before it reaches the floor, but the decision over whether or not the version of the ACA passes still relies on a majority vote. The necessity of a majority vote is the very heart of Representative Democracy and yet is also the core of many of the shortcomings along the road to new legislation. The vote earning process is a very interesting time as it is the pivotal moment to the success or failure of a piece of legislation, but is one of the shorter and overlooked portions of politics.
Major figures in support of the bill often travel in an effort to associate their support base with the bill and thus put pressure on the deciding votes in Congress through their Constituents and their desire to remain in office. President Obama did just that during the Congressional recess over the month of August. The President also attempted to quell any fears that the general public had during this span as fear is a very effective tool for opponents of legislation (Smith 2).
The public may not be the ones in the chamber voting when the time comes, but Constituents’ support works both ways. If a support base is against a bill due to false rumors, then they are more likely to lobby their Congressmen to vote against the legislation. The support of the constituency is very important to gaining votes on the floor; however, votes in the House and the Senate is the deciding factor to a bill’s success and sometimes hurdles to a majority are not the result of the desire to be reelected.
The death or resignation of a major supporter or opponent can also greatly alter the political landscape. The loss of a major vote can unbalance the situation in many different ways, the first being the vote is no longer guaranteed, but beyond the loss of the “yea or nay” is the possibility for the position to be filled by one who does not think the same way or think the same way as strongly. This was a fear upon the untimely death of a major proponent and drafter for the Affordable Care Act.
Senator Edward Kennedy called the bill “the cause of [his] life” and upon his death left an empty seat that eliminated the Democratic Senate’s sixty vote filibuster-proof majority (2010). The thought of losing the landmark bill caused understandable shock in the Senate, especially shortly before the vote. As such, lobbying by the incumbents in office took place to try to earn support for the candidate that favored the bill rather than the candidate that wanted to stop the bill. While the candidate in favor was not ultimately elected, the process of praising one candidate over another is a very common practice.
When all hope seemed lost for the bill with an opponent in the Senate taking control of the vacated seat and disrupting the Democratic supermajority, the Senate Majority leader Harry Reid informed the Minority leader, Mitch McConnell that reconciliation was imminent for the law. Reconciliation would allow the bill to pass with only a simple majority, which the Democrats still held (“Here’s How ‘reconciliation’ Works in Congress. ”). The passage of the bill through this method allowed for the bill to pass through the Senate and the House so it could be signed into law by the president.
The Affordable Care Act has created as much conflict after its implementation as with its introduction, but the processes involved after the ACA’s launch can be summed up as judicial review ultimately confirming the validity of the law. The analysis of the creation of the ACA confirms that the political processes used were the collaboration between the White House bureaucracies and legislators, the committee system in both houses of Congress, and the election and lobbying scheme to procure enough votes to pass the bill.
The product of the labors is the Affordable Care Act in place today. Although some parts of the bill may have been forced through, the processes necessary to its inception were characteristic of all pieces of legislation, major or otherwise. The Affordable Care Act will carry on so long as the legislation continues to support it, as it is with all pieces of American legislation.