How a Bill Becomes Law

Wednesday November 30, 2011 – Periods 1 & 3
Thursday December 1, 2011 – Periods 4 & 6

  We began class peer editing our health care paper’s frame and examine components. Next we did a review activity on how a bill becomes a law.

 

Then we took notes on how a bill becomes a law. We learned that after a bill is introduced, it is sent to the committees that deal with the subject. If a committee decides to act on a bill, it holds hearings. After the hearings are over, the committee meets in a markup session to decide what changes to make to the bill. After all the changes have been made, the committee votes either to kill the bill or to report it to the House or Senate for action. The bill is then debated on the floor, followed by a  vote. Earmarks are a way that members of Congress can specify that some part of a funding bill will go toward a certain purpose. Bills sometimes have riders attached, which are provisions on subjects other than the one covered in the bill. To become law, a bill must pass both houses of Congress in identical form. A conference committee works out any differences between versions of the same bill. Then the bill is sent to the president, who signs it into law or rejects it with a veto. Congress can override a president’s veto with a two-thirds vote in both houses.

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Congressional Comittees

Monday November 28, 2011 – Periods 1 & 3
Tuesday November 29, 2011 – Periods 4 & 6

  Today we learned that the work of Congress is done mainly through its committees and subcommittees, each of which has its own leadership and its designated policy jurisdiction. Both the House and Senate depend upon committees to consider the thousands of bills that are proposed each session. Committees are the key power centers in Congress. Lawmakers in committees listen to supporters and opponents of a bill, work out compromises, and decide which bills will or will not have a chance to become law. Through public hearings and investigations, committees bring issues and problems to the public. Congress has four basic kinds of committees: (1) standing committees, each with several subcommittees that specialize in a subcategory; (2) select (or temporary) committees; (3) joint committees made up of House and Senate members; and (4) conference committees that resolve differing versions of a House and Senate bill. The key House committees are Rules, Ways and Means, and Appropriations. The most prestigious Senate committees are Foreign Relations, Finance, and Appropriations. Party leaders in both the House and Senate have the job of assigning members to a limited number of standing committees and subcommittees. The chairpersons of standing committees are the most powerful people in Congress.

We ended class with the 60 Minutes video “Insiders.” In the video, Steve Kroft reports that members of Congress can legally trade stock or make real estate investments based on non-public information from Capitol Hill. After the story aired, at least 93 members of Congress have signed on as cosponsors of the STOCK (Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge) Act, and for the first time the bill has been introduced in the Senate.

Congressional Leadership

Wednesday November 23, 2011 – Periods 4 & 6
Monday November 28, 2011 – Periods 1 & 3

  Today we learned about the role of Congress and lbegan with an examination of the leadership positions in Congress. In the House of Representatives, leadership is provided by party leaders, including the Speaker of the House and the majority leader. The majority party gets to select the leaders of that body, control the flow of legislative work, and appoint the chairs of all the committees. The Speaker of the House has great power presiding over House sessions. These party leaders do not have great formal powers. Their authority rests mainly on shared partisan values and the fact that they have been entrusted with leadership responsibility by other senators or representatives of their party. We also learned that leadership in the Senate closely parallels leadership in the House, but the Senate has no Speaker. The vice president presides but cannot vote except to break a tie. The majority party leader steers the party’s bills through the Senate. The minority leader critiques the majority party’s bills and keeps his or her own party united. Senate leaders control the flow of bills to committees and to the floor.

For the remainder of class, we returned to the library to complete our research and start writing the examine component of our paper.

Health Care Frame edit

Tuesday November 22, 2011 – Periods 1 & 3

  Today we peer edited our social science analysis frame and reserch components of our research paper on health care reform. After peer editing, the class returned to the library to complete their research and start writing the examine component of their paper.

SSA Frame edit

Monday November 21, 2011 – Periods 4 & 6

  Today we peer edited our social science analysis frame and research components of our research paper on health care reform.

  Then we studied the history of voting rights in the United States before the American Revolution was that eligible voters in the colonies included only a small percent of the adult population. By 1840, the nation had granted all white males voting rights. The Fifteenth Amendment gave African American males the right to vote in 1870. The Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920. With the passing of the Twenty-sixth Amendment in 1971, citizens between the ages of 18 and 21 also could vote.  Voter turnout in U.S.elections is low in comparison with that of other Western democracies. The reasons include the nature of U.S. election laws, particularly those pertaining to registration requirements and the scheduling of elections. Most Americans make a distinction between their personal lives and public life. This outlook reduces their incentive to participate and contributes to a pattern of participation dominated by citizens of higher income and education.

SSA: Health Care

Thursday November 17, 2011 – Periods 4 & 6
Friday November 18, 2011 – Periods 1 & 3

  Today we began our social science analysis research paper. Paper expectations and guidelines were handed out and we spent the period in the school library gathering data and information on the health care system in the United States.

Switzerland Health Care

Wednesday November 16, 2011 – Periods 1 & 3

  Today for the first half of class, we completed our unit on health care systems and the video Sick Around the World.

  T.R. Reid’s last stop is Switzerland, a country which, like Taiwan, set out to reform a system that did not cover all its citizens. In 1994, a national referendum approved a law called LAMal or the sickness, which set up a universal health care system. Switzerland didn’t have far to go to achieve universal coverage as 95 percent of the population already had voluntary insurance when the law was passed. Today, Swiss politicians from the right and left enthusiastically support universal health care. The Swiss system is social insurance like in Japan and Germany. All citizens are required to have coverage and those not covered are automatically assigned to a company. The government provides assistance to those who cannot afford the premiums. The Swiss shows health care reform is possible, even in a highly capitalist country with powerful insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Insurance companies are not allowed to make a profit on basic care and are prohibited from cherry-picking only young and healthy applicants. However, they can make money on supplemental insurance. Like Germany, the insurers negotiate with providers to set standard prices for services, but drug prices are set by the government. The Swiss system is the second most expensive in the world, but it is still cheaper than U.S. health care. Drug prices are higher than in other European nations and are subsidized by the more expensive U.S. market, where some Swiss drug companies make one-third of their profits. The Swiss do not have gatekeeper doctors, although some insurance plans require them or give a discount to consumers who use them.

  American health insurance companies routinely reject applicants with a preexisting condition, precisely the people most likely to need the insurers’ service. Insurance companies employ armies of adjusters to deny claims. If a customer is hit by a truck and faces big medical bills, the insurer’s rescission department digs through the records looking for grounds to cancel the policy, often while the victim is still in the hospital. The companies say they have to do this to survive in a tough business. Foreign health insurance companies, in contrast, must accept all applicants, and they can’t cancel as long as you pay your premiums. The plans are required to pay any claim submitted by a doctor or hospital, usually within tight time limits. The key difference is that foreign health insurance plans exist only to pay people’s medical bills, not to make a profit. The United States is the only developed country that lets insurance companies profit from basic health coverage. Foreign health care models are not really foreign to America, because our health care system uses elements of all of them. For Native Americans or veterans, we are like Britain or Cuba. The government provides health care, funding it through general taxes, and patients get no bills. For people who get insurance through their jobs, we are like Japan or Germany. Premiums are split between workers and employers, and private insurance plans pay private doctors and hospitals. For people over 65, we are like Taiwan or Canada. Everyone pays premiums for an insurance plan run by the government and the public plan pays private doctors and hospitals according to a set fee schedule. And for the tens of millions without insurance coverage, we are like Cambodia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Burma, or rural India. In the world’s poor nations, sick people pay out of pocket for medical care and those who cannot pay stay sick or die. This fragmentation is another reason that we spend more than anybody else and still leave millions without coverage. All the other developed countries have settled on one model for health-care delivery and finance. The United States is unlike every other country because it maintains so many separate systems for separate classes of people. We have blended them all into a costly, confusing bureaucratic mess. Which, in turn, punctures the most persistent myth of all: that America has “the finest health care” in the world. In terms of results, almost all advanced countries have better national health statistics than the United States does. In terms of finance, we force 700,000 Americans into bankruptcy each year because of medical bills. In France, the number of medical bankruptcies is zero. Britain: zero. Japan: zero. Germany: zero. Given our remarkable medical assets, the best-educated doctors and nurses, the most advanced hospitals, and world-class research; the United States could be and should be the best in the world.

  The last half of class we studied the history of voting rights in the United States before the American Revolution was that eligible voters in the colonies included only a small percent of the adult population. By 1840, the nation had granted all white males voting rights. The Fifteenth Amendment gave African American males the right to vote in 1870. The Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920. With the passing of the Twenty-sixth Amendment in 1971, citizens between the ages of 18 and 21 also could vote.  Voter turnout in U.S.elections is low in comparison with that of other Western democracies. The reasons include the nature of U.S. election laws, particularly those pertaining to registration requirements and the scheduling of elections. Most Americans make a distinction between their personal lives and public life. This outlook reduces their incentive to participate and contributes to a pattern of participation dominated by citizens of higher income and education.