Pick your average member of the House of Representatives, one who has a lot of work to do but hasn't been deeply involved in crafting the massive health care makeover bill. Who knows more about what's in that bill -- Mr. Average Democrat, or Mr. Average Republican?
Bet on the Republican. For weeks now, GOP lawmakers have been studying the Democratic health care bill, and for months before that, they studied preliminary Democratic plans. Many rank-and-file Democrats, on the other hand, have been so ill-informed about what their leadership has been doing that it was only last week, when the party offered a five-hour class on the bill's contents, that some members began to grasp the details.
That means the Republicans hold an advantage going into the health care ground war that will unfold during the August recess, when lawmakers go home to visit with voters. "We learned from the stimulus, and the other side didn't," says one savvy GOP aide. "They pushed through a bill as fast as possible so that no one knew what was in it. Very early on, there was a clear goal that Republican members of Congress would know what was in this [health care] bill and what its impact would be."
The cynic in me recognizes that this is mostly driven by political considerations, but the thought of legislators actually being informed on a issue they will be voting on is refreshing. Sad, that.