Twenty years ago this month an unorthodox strategy was tried to reach consensus on the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Republicans and Democrat members of the House and Senate and the Clinton Administration agreed to have the appropriate staff meet and draft a bill to be considered by both the House Education and Workforce Committee and the full House, and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee and the full Senate. In late May 1997 that happened. The House and Senate passed the same bill. Two weeks later President Clinton signed it.
The process used to achieve this miraculous conclusion was the following:
1. Staff meetings on Monday through Wednesday for 4-6 hours a day through mid-April.
2. Notes from negotiations shared with staff in a chart every Thursday by noon every week.
3. An edited version (reflecting clarifications from staff who read the Wednesday chart) was shared with stakeholders around the country by email every Thursday night.
4. On every Friday an open mike meeting was held by staff with stakeholders from throughout the country. This input was considered the following Monday.
5. The staff started negotiations with text that was easier on which to agree. Then the staff took on the tougher issues. By then, they respected each other and saw that the process was working. Everyone -- staff, their bosses, and stakeholders were operating in good faith.
Perhaps a process like this could work to develop consensus on health care policy. I was the note taker in 1997. David Hoppe, who was then Chief of Staff for Trent Lott, was the convenor in chief for and the architect of the process I just described. Until recently he was Speaker Paul Ryan's Chief of Staff. Perhaps he would elect to help once again.
Something to think about.