THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The House and the Senate

Back when I was hemorrhaging cash to get a masters degree from George Washington University, I learned a handy policy analysis skill: the side-by-side table. It is just what you think it would be. Well, assuming you know what a table is, and what it means for something to be displayed side-by-side. The real question is: What is being compared? In this case, it's the House's health reform bill vis-a-vis the Senate's health reform bill. I waited until the Senate voted to open debate on the floor before bringing you this information. (I didn't want to act too prematurely, after all.) But the vote passed 60-39, kicking off what's sure to be fun for those of you who like to watch the few minutes of entertaining antics that are interspersed throughout hours of dull-enough-to-kill-you coverage on C-SPAN.

Now, if it were an assignment for school, or if I were actually being paid to work on this, I'd present you with my very own side-by-side analysis of the two bills. Alas, neither of those things is true. As a result, I'm just going to give you the briefest of my thoughts -- those who want more than that are encouraged to take me out for dinner, or at least a drink -- and then point you in the direction of some excellent resources created by those who do get paid to do this sort of thing.

Alright, here's my quick and dirty analysis: The House bill does more to cover the uninsured than the Senate bill, offers a slightly stronger version of the public option and puts more stringent mandates on individuals and employers than does the Senate. Oh, and both bills plan to pay for all this in different ways. Assuming the Senate passes a bill, what do I think will happen in conference? Obviously, I think the conference report will fall somewhere in between the House and the Senate versions, but I think that things in the final bill will be closer to the Senate bill if only because clearing the Senate represents a more challenging procedural hurdle (60 votes to end the filibuster and all that).

Okay. Now for the side-by-side table. The best one I've seen yet comes from Kathleen Masterson at NPR with the assistance of Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News. You can see their work here. The best thing about it, in my opinion, is the "Likely In Final Bill?"-o-meter that gives an indication of what will or won't make it out of conference.

Erica Werner and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the Associated Press also have a nice comparison here. It's primary drawback? It's just text with clear headings rather than a pretty table.

For those of you who are intimidated by the side-by-side table or just prefer to get your information in a more indirect prose form, you should check out the stories from The Washington Post or The New York Times. (I'm especially fond of the Times piece, which is co-authored by the brilliant Robert Pear.) Of course, last but not least, is the fine blog work of Jonathan Cohn. You should be reading him all the time anyway.

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