I watched the bulk of the markup of the Senate Mental Health bill today and the difference between it and the House markup of the Murphy Bill was remarkable. The most remarkable thing about the Senate hearing was how unremarkable it seemed. There was no blood let. All the battles had been fought before the hearing started. The had come to their agreements and the point of the hearing was to announce those agreements. They seemed to recognize clearly that a bill everyone couldn’t live with would never find life.
Basically they didn’t really argue with the provisions of the Murphy Bill or the inflamed rhetoric that surrounded it. They just ignored it. They called no names. They assigned no blame. And they made a big point of saying this is a joint agreement.
I thought the most important thing was not what the bill was, but what it was not. There will be amendments and changes I am sure but this Bill is not Tim Murphy II.
My largest impression of the whole thing was, as the title indicates, that Lamar Alexander just dropped a bomb in Tim Murphy’s lap.
He just stole his thunder. He gave a lot of ammunition to the people in the House who oppose Murphy. They can now say conclusively that his bill is an empty gesture. It will never fly in the Senate. If the House leadership wants to actually pass a bill that might become law it is not the Murphy Bill. They can make an ideological gesture if they wish but that will not give them a practical reality.
Depending on how much rope the House leadership gives Murphy it might mean no Bill will pass. Murphy has won no awards for working with people. He seems wedded to a particular ideology of mental health reform and winning seems more important to him than working anything out. Lamar Alexander has been around a long time and I don’t see him being particularly intimidated by Tim Murphy calling him names or questioning his motivation.
Personally I think the defeat of Tim Murphy is a good thing. Giving him ownership of the issue of mental health reform would be a bad thing not just for now but for years to come.
Lamar Alexander I think has dropped the bomb. It will be interesting to see what Rep Murphy does with it.