Free Markets, Free People

About “Reconciliation”

Despite all the rumors of back-room deals already agreed upon by the Democrats the House may be short of the votes necessary to pass the Senate version of the Health Care Reform bill.

Of course the rumored plan is to have the House pass the Senate bill without change and then have the Senate amend it to the House’s liking through the reconciliation process which only requires 51 votes to pass.

Not so fast.

First the House has to pass it – and, according to at least one source, they may be as many as 100 votes short. Michael Barone explains why House Democrats may be less than enthusiastic about voting for this bill:

Why are House Democratic leaders having such trouble getting the 217 votes needed for a majority (because there are vacancies now in two Democratic-held seats)? Look at it this way. Imagine you’re a Democratic congressman from a not entirely safe district. The leadership comes to you and says, We’d like you to vote for the Senate bill. Oh, and by the way, we can’t change a word in it. You’ve got to vote for the Cornhusker Hustle and the Louisiana Purchase and all that other garbage.

But hey, the leadership guy will go on, there’s no risk, because the Senate will fix everything through the reconciliation process. You will be suspicious of this. You will note that using the reconciliation process requires favorable rulings from the Senate parliamentarian, rulings over which you have no more leverage than you have over phases of the moon. It requires 50 Democratic senators willing to go along with reconciliation, and given the poll numbers that have been coming out lately that’s not a sure thing. And it requires steady leadership from Harry Reid—who just last week, without notice to the White House, the House leadership or the senators involved, yanked a Baucus-Grassely bipartisan “jobs” bill and substituted a much smaller one of his own.

A. First you have to trust Nancy Pelosi enough to vote on it.
B. Then you have to trust Harry Reid to do what he says he’ll do – i.e. initiate the reconciliation process and address the specific points the House wants changed.
C. You have to hope there are enough Democratic Senators (not in tight races) who’ll go along with reconciliation. And finally,
D. You have to hope that the process is favorably ruled upon by the Senate parlimentarian.

If all of that doesn’t come to pass and the Senate bill passes unchanged, the Democratic member of the House has handed his political opponents in this year’s midterms some ready made ammunition. He or she will have voted for the Louisiana Purchase, Cornhusker Kickback and all manner of other other objectionable portions of the bill. Concludes Barone:

The only protection you have against this is the assurance that the Senate parliamentarian and scared incumbent senators will come through for you, and that Harry Reid will pursue a steady course.

So your response to the leadership is either, I gotta think about this, or, Hell no. The House Democratic leadership’s problem is that it cannot credibly promise that the Senate will keep its part of the bargain.

In terms of trust, my guess is Senate Democrats rank somewhere below used car salesmen and lawyers.



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8 Responses to About “Reconciliation”

  • McQ: Not being any kind of parliamentarian, I’m still wondering — assuming steps A – D execute flawlessly — what the difference between passing the resulting bill in the Senate with reconciliation means.

    I’ve read that reconciliation only affects budget items, but the healthcare reform bills, as I understand them,  go well beyond that.

    • They’re supposed to pass the Senate bill without changes in the House. That keeps the Senate from having to submit a compromise bill to a vote that requires 60 votes to the full Senate. The Senate Democrats then promise to change those things House Democrats want that can be changed through the reconciliation process. That means the House will have to suck it up on some of the stuff they wanted in or out of it (since reconciliation will only deal with budget/spending items in the Senate bill), but they are then promised they can make those changes incrementally to the passed legislation.

      The problem is they don’t trust the whole of the process nor the Senate to keep their word (or for that matter, they’ll have the majorities they need to make the incremental changes they desire).

  • McQ: Thanks. I get that mostly.

    I’m wondering though what’s left and what’s left out of the Senate bill after passing by reconciliation. How much of a difference is that?

    • I’ve not seen that broken down yet, unfortunately. I’m sure it will show up somewhere when and if they move in that direction. Suffice it to say, and as you know, it means only certain portions of the Senate bill will get changed and that nothing the House wants can be added. Not at all the “final bill” much of the House insisted upon and one reason they’re having trouble mustering the vote necessary to pass it.

  • Ain’t happen! Democrats now know they face a serious George Armstrong Custer defeat this fall and are trying to save as much of themsleves as possible. Pelosi leadership style has given way to everyman for himself until after the election.  The healthcare reform bill was rotten from root to branch. It was more political than economic. It was a shame that a real bill wasn’t introduced that didn’t pay off Senators for votes and provided some meaningful reduction in health care cost. The only way to do health care reform will be similar to the military base closing commission of the early 1990’s. There are too many special interest groups that can short circuit the system and work it for their own self-centered benefit.

    Danny L. McDaniel
    Lafayette, Indiana

  • Apparently, they have convince Boehner that it is “reconciliation” …

    A productive bipartisan discussion should begin with a clean sheet of paper.  We now know that instead of starting the ‘bipartisan’ health care ‘summit’ on Feb. 25 with a clean sheet of paper, the president and his party intend to arrive with a new bill written behind closed doors exclusively by Democrats — a backroom deal that will transform one-sixth of our nation’s economy and affect every family and small business in America.  They will then engage a largely handpicked audience in a televised ‘dialogue’ according to a script they have largely pre-determined.  They will do this as a precursor to embarking on a legislative course that Democratic congressional aides acknowledge has also been pre-determined — a partisan course that relies on parliamentary tricks to circumvent the will of the American people and engineer a pre-determined outcome.  It doesn’t sound much like bipartisanship to me.

    For the weak minded, that’s a NO to the health care summit.