Friday, October 17, 2008

Government Moves in Mysterious Ways

Did you all notice that the bailout legislation that passed Congress last month was titled "The Paul Wellstone and Peter Domenici Mental Health and Substance Abuse Parity Bill"?  When I was in Washington last month, that is one of the bills of interest that the AAP had us highlight in our "Hill Visits" with legislators, which happened on September 29th, the day that the House was voting to reject the initial "Bailout Bill".  It was an interesting time to meet with legislators to discuss health care legislation; all eyes were focused on the meltdown of the economy, and we were probably the only folks discussing anything else on the Hill.  We heard a lot of different things from different offices about the Mental Health Parity bill, which had actually passed both houses, but was defying reconciliation because the Senate had attached a tax bill to it that the House had rejected, and both sides were adamant that it would not pass.  We debriefed at the AAP's Washington Office, as the "bailout" died on C-SPAN behind us on the wall.  One office reported that they thought that the bill had already passed, several said that Congress would pass it after the election and a few said that it would not make it out this session.  The AAP Staff decided that it would be worthwhile to send our membership a request for letters through the FAAN network, a call that I echoed on the blog at the time.  Two days later, the bill passed.  What I didn't realize at the time, was that the AAP blast generated 1000 letter to various offices of Congress on Tuesday, as the Senate was beginning to deal with its versionof the bailout.  Now the Senate CAN'T originate a money bill (according the Constitution);  they needed to attach it to something.  They picked the Parity Bill, attached the money bill to it and the rest is history.  That's the base of the bill that the President signed, and Parity is now the law of the land.

Did those 1000 letters arriving on a day when ALL of the other pundits were talking money and economics have an impact on which bill the Senate picked as its vehicle?  Or was it just that the Senate knew that the House liked this bill, having passed it by a lopsided majority earlier in the session?  We will never know.  On the other hand, I like to think that the AAP had some part in the rescue of the economy on that September Monday, and that we managed to do some good for children at the same time.

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