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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Health care reform and pedagogical tools

Rick's post on his missed opportunity to use deem-and-pass in class brings up a question I have been thinking about for a while.

I taught Legislation once, long ago (although I might consider doing it again), using the Eskridge/Frickey/Garrett casebook. The book opens with a lengthy narrative on passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964--at the time, one of the signal pieces of federal social legislation that relied on all sorts of legislative-procedure dancing (filibusters, committee-assignment choices, committee chair power, committee chair assignments, party affiliations, House/Senate agreement).

Congress is potentially on the verge of passing (ken ayina hora) the most significant piece of social legislation since Johnson's Great Society. And it has had similar procedural dances, of which deem-and-pass is only the latest (and most controversial).

Assuming the bill passes, should the updated version of the casebook use a new legislative story on the events of 2009-10? Is this too new an example? Is the legislation too controversial (thus allowing political/partisan passions to distract from the procedural issues)? Is there something about the process that makes it a bad example?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 20, 2010 at 09:37 AM in Current Affairs, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink


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There's lots of political arguments you could make for why it might serve as a good/bad example, but I think Civil Rights Act works best because (1) the substance is fairly straightforward compared to the health care bill, whose provisions are much more convoluted, and (2) because much of the rest of the legislation textbook focuses on how its statutory terms unfolded in subsequent decades. The Civil Rights Act works because the rest of the textbook is about statutory interpretation, not the legislative process itself.

Posted by: p.d. | Mar 21, 2010 8:37:32 PM

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