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The Passion of a Congressional Health Care Battle

Times Insider

WASHINGTON — One of the remarkable features of covering the congressional battle over health care this year has been the way reporters pieced together a picture of what was happening from snippets of information extracted from members of Congress dashing through the Capitol.

At times, I felt as if I were in a time machine — reliving, in reverse, my previous reporting for The New York Times on the laborious legislative process that produced the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and 2010. Reporters roamed the halls like hunters and sprang into action with voice recorders in hand when a senator emerged from the Senate chamber, an elevator or a subway car, or an unmarked hideaway office.

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It was not unusual to see more than a dozen reporters surrounding or chasing after senators who appeared to be thinking out loud as they responded last week to questions about the latest iteration of the Senate Republican health plan. Republican senators themselves often professed to be in the dark about crucial details. But from the scattered clues they offered — like tiles of a mosaic — journalists assembled a picture of what was happening behind the scenes.

Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, for example, disclosed that Senate Republicans were planning to drop a tax cut for high-income people that had been included in a bill passed by the House and in a measure drafted by the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

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