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Ping Ponging Bills is Not Uncommon

January 5, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

As we’ve been reporting, Democratic leaders in Congress have decided to skip conference committee negotiations on health care and instead will send an amendment back and forth between the Senate and the House until both chambers have approved the same exact bill, a process known sometimes as “ping-ponging.”

They’ve gotten a lot of pushback on from people arguing that their decision to eschew the conference committee is an attempt to push the bill through without full deliberation and transparency. There is some truth to the concerns about transparency (though the approach their using could theoretically be done in a way that is just as transparent), but the fact is that Congress has been doing this with bills for years and what they are doing with the health care bill is really nothing new.

Sam Stein at Huffington Post did the research and found that the current session of Congress has already ping-ponged at least 5 bills. The previous session of Congress used the ping-pong method for 42% of “major bills” that needed reconciling between the House and Senate versions. And previous sessions of Congress that were controlled by the Republicans in the early 00’s ping-ponged bills as well. According to the research, the Republicans used conference committees much more often than the recent Democratic-controlled sessions of Congress, but they skipped them and used the ping-pong approach on some major bills, including one creating the Department of Homeland Security.

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