More play time than money

Much has been written about health care reform, but there's something that's gone unremarked upon, as far as I know:

I don't think I've ever seen this much attention to legislative procedure.

And it's kind of remarkable, really -- just look at some of these mainstream news stories from Slate or the New York Times. And it's been like this for months now.

I remember briefly some discussion of the constitutionality of filibustering in relation to Bush judicial nominees a few years back -- the trivia around the nuclear option and all. But in all the big legislative debates I can recall, from the Brady Bill to NAFTA, DMCA, McCain-Feingold, the PATRIOT Act, Medicare part D and TARP, I don't think there's been such coverage of rival committees, proposed amendments and procedural maneuvers. I can't recall a time when so many different senators and representatives were regularly featured in the news.

There's probably some way to measure this -- counting mentions of the term "cloture" in the news over the years, perhaps, or determining the frequency of senators' names appearing in print.

Who knows? Maybe I'm just paying more attention this time around. But I'd bet the proliferation of punditry, speculative markets and blogs has spawned more detailed reporting.

It's not at all clear whether this increased reporting on legislative procedure translates to a populace more informed on policy options, although I'd wager that's the case. And while I'm sure there are still plenty of back-room deals and shady lobbyist rewrites, this increased public engagement and scrutiny of the legislative process has got to be a good thing, overall.

What I'm wondering is: What would have happened to all the vitriol over healthcare reform, if we didn't have all these frequent, detailed updates? Would we have seen less heated rhetoric, or could more have been possible?