Reconciliation — It’s Alive? (UPDATED – Dead Again?)
Senate Republicans caused a major stir Thursday when they told reporters that the parliamentarian had informed them that the Senate bill needed to be signed into law before lawmakers took up a sidecar bill to fix it.
But according to reporting by POLITICO’s David Rogers, the accounts aren’t accurate and misconstrue what the Senate parliamentarians have said. That is that reconciliation must amend law but this could be done without the Senate bill being enacted first. “It is wholly possible to create law and qualify law before the law is on the books,” said one person familiar with situation.
For example, if the big bill itself amends some Social Security statute, reconciliation could be written to do the same –with changes sought by the House. Then if reconciliation is passed and signed by President Barack Obama after he signs the larger bill, the changes made in reconciliation would prevail.
This jives with what Pulse sources were saying soon after the first wave of stories hit – in essence, don’t take the reported parliamentarian’s declaration to the bank.
If this report is correct (and there are some issues with it explained below), then we are essentially in the “Yes, No” scenario:
Should the parliamentarians decide that the House must pass the Senate bill, but that the president does not have to sign prior to the reconciliation bill being considered, then the House can basically hold the Senate bill hostage while working on the fixes. It’s not entirely clear how long Pelosi could do this (how soon after voting does she have to enroll the bill? What about the ten-day limits re passage/”pocket veto”?). However, it would enable to the House to get a reconciliation bill through the Senate before sending the Senate bill to Obama, thus ensuring that whatever happens during reconciliation doesn’t undermine any Representative’s “yes” vote.
I always thought that this was the most likely scenario, but not being an expert in these matters I couldn’t, and still can’t, say for sure.
Yet, something from the Politico piece strikes me as a bit off, constitutionally speaking. Specifically, this quote (bolded below) doesn’t make any sense:
That is that reconciliation must amend law but this could be done without the Senate bill being enacted first. “It is wholly possible to create law and qualify law before the law is on the books,” said one person familiar with situation.
I am almost certain that this is not correct. The Constitution is pretty clear on this matter:
Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; …
Art. I, Sect. 7 (emphasis added)
Perhaps the anonymous source for Politico was just being careless in choice of words, and what he/she really meant was that a bill does not necessarily have to become law before it is subjected to the reconciliation process. That may be true, and that was part of what the parliamentarians were asked to rule upon. But there simply is no question that a bill, before it can become a “Law,” must be signed by the President.
In any event, provided that the Politico reporting is correct (and I think it may be), then there is still the possibility of reconciliation being used to pass ObamaCare. However, there are still a number of problems.
Bruce broke down the numbers for you this morning, which gives everyone a good sense of what the reconciliation bill, as passed by the Senate, must look like in order to get the Senate bill passed in the House. Again, whether or not the “fixes” required by House members to get their vote will actually survive the Byrd Rule part of the reconciliation process is a huge question. In addition, Republicans will have other means of attacking the bill, such as challenging its long-term budget effect which could scuttle the entire thing. So, not only do the wavering House members need to be assured that the Senate will vote for their fixes in the reconciliation bill, they also have to know that those fixes will survive the process, and that the reconciliation bill as a whole will be capable of being passed under the budgetary constraints peculiar to such legislation. That’s a whole lot of “if’s” that need to be answered before the Senate bill comes to the floor for a vote.
The only thing that is immediately clear in all of this is that Democrats have absolutely zero respect for the Constitution, democratic principles, or this republic. They sure as hell don’t give a damn about Americans. No matter what the parliamentarians rule, I still expect Pelosi and Reid to jam something down our gullets and indignantly demand that we thank them for it.
UPDATE: It seems as though the House leadership agrees with the GOP interpretation of the Senate parliamentarian:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) today acknowledged that the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling precludes the House from passing reconciliation fixes to health-care without first passing the Senate bill. Pelosi told reporters she will do just that:
“The bills that have passed, ours with 220 in the House, theirs with 60 in the Senate, we’ll be acting upon the Senate bill with changes that were in the House bill reflected in the reconciliation. So in order to have the Senate bill be the basis and build upon it with the reconciliation, you have to pass the Senate bill, or else you’re talking about starting from scratch. So we will pass the Senate bill. Once we pass it, the President signs it or doesn’t, it’s – people would rather he waited until the Senate acted, but the Senate Parliamentarian, as you have said, said in order for them to do a reconciliation based on the Senate bill, it must be signed by the President.”
Steny Hoyer offered a similar conclusion:
Separately, on the House floor today, Eric Cantor pressed Steny Hoyer on the issue, asking Hoyer whether it’s his position that the Senate bill “must be signed into law before the Senate can even take up the reconciliation package.”
“I think the gentleman correctly states the Senate parliamentarian’s position,” Hoyer replied.
For those keeping score, we went from “Yes, Yes” to “Yes, No” back to “Yes, Yes” and all the while Pelosi is insisting that ObamaCare will be passed. Soon. Very, very soon. Which probably means that the Slaughter Rule will brought into the game … and I just can’t even fathom how that sort of extra-constitutional procedure will play out. This is getting more confusing than wearing a mirror-suit in a house full of mirrors.