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Reconciliation — It’s Alive? (UPDATED – Dead Again?)

Seems my skepticism yesterday was warranted. According to Politico sources, the Senate parliamentarian ruling announced by the GOP yesterday may have been “misinterpreted”:

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.

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Reconciliation Dead For Good?

Yesterday it was reported that the House and Senate parliamentarians were asked to rule on what exactly the process needed to be for a reconciliation bill to get passed regarding ObamaCare. As I stated, also yesterday, if the answers to the questions, does the House have to pass the Senate bill and does Pres. Obama have to sign it before the reconciliation bill can be considered, are “Yes, Yes” then ObamaCare is officially dead:

In this scenario, the House would have to trust the Senate to agree to its fixes, that such fixes get through the reconciliation process, and that Obama signs them into law. Meanwhile, a perfectly functional health care law will be on the books which achieves what the Senate Democrats wanted, and what Obama has staked his entire presidency upon. That would require a great deal of faith.

I don’t think the progressive caucus, the Stupak group, or many other Representatives have anywhere near that much faith in the Senate and/or Obama. And if this reporting by Roll Call is accurate, they’re going to need a whole mess of it:

The Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that President Barack Obama must sign Congress’ original health care reform bill before the Senate can act on a companion reconciliation package, senior GOP sources said Thursday.

The Senate Parliamentarian’s Office was responding to questions posed by the Republican leadership. The answers were provided verbally, sources said.

House Democratic leaders have been searching for a way to ensure that any move they make to approve the Senate-passed $871 billion health care reform bill is followed by Senate action on a reconciliation package of adjustments to the original bill. One idea is to have the House and Senate act on reconciliation prior to House action on the Senate’s original health care bill.

Information Republicans say they have received from the Senate Parliamentarian’s Office eliminates that option.

Yes, Yes We Can’t!

[HT: Neo]

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The Kamakazi Option: On health care reform, the action is in the House

Forget reconciliation for the moment, if the Senate version of the Health Care Reform bill doesn’t make it out of the House, reconciliation is moot.  As we talked about on last night’s podcast, the action to be watched is in the House where Nancy Peolosi is trying to gather enough votes to pass the bill into law.  If and when that should happen, and that is an extremely iffy prosepect at best, then reconciliation comes into play, with the Senate promising to pass “fixes” to the Senate bill/law to satisfy House Democrats.

So the effort in the House is two-fold: 1) put a legislative package together that will be passed after the Senate bill is signed into law that will satisfy wavering House Democrats and 2) then get enough votes among Democrats (remember they don’t need a single Republican vote to pass this bill in the House) to pass the Senate bill.

As of this writing, Pelosi doesn’t have enough votes to pass the bill. So, in the face of increasing public disapproval and skitish House Democrats, she’s reduced to calling on Democrats to become political kamakazis in order to pass this monstrosity of a bill into law.

“Our members, every one of them, wants health care,” Ms. Pelosi said. “They know that this will take courage. It took courage to pass Social Security. It took courage to pass Medicare. And many of the same forces that were at work decades ago are at work again against this bill.”

“But,” Ms. Pelosi continued, “the American people need it. Why are we here? We’re not here just to self-perpetuate our service in Congress. We’re here to do the job for the American people, to get them results that give them not only health security, but economic security.”

Ms. Pelosi, holding a fairly safe seat from the liberal San Francisco area, is willing to spend the careers of every Democrat in the House to get her way. The question is, are enough of the Democratic members of the House willing to go along?

My sense is the answer is no (if they were, the bill would be law right now, wouldn’t it?) and she’s going to have a very tough time selling her “package” to Democrats – especially those among a group of 40 headed by Bart Stupak who are pro-life Democrats and don’t at all like the abortion language in the Senate bill. Reconciliation can’t fix that. And even if only half the Blue-Dogs go for her package, that leaves more than enough to defeat the bill.

As every day passes and we get closer to the mid-term elections I think it becomes less and less likely that Pelosi will get the votes she needs. There are few “courageous” politicians when it comes to jeopardizing their careers. This is one time that actually works for the people’s best interests. And I’d also guess that once the members of the House understand what reconciliation can and won’t fix, the bill’s fate is sealed.

I’m saying the bill won’t pass. That’s a guess. But it is a guess as valid as any other out there since it factors in the vast differences between the two bills in the first place, the fact that reconcilation is a very poor substitute for a normal congessional markup session and the belief that human nature will win out over party kamakazi politics with the desire to retain their jobs winning out over what Nancy Pelosi wants.

~McQ

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House To Try To Pass Its Version Of Health Care This Week

And it has a number of Democrats more than a little nervous (including 40 Dems who’ve signed a letter stating they won’t sign on as long as the abortion provisions in the bill remain).  Why are they nervous?  Well, 2010 is right around the corner, Republicans has just won some key special elections and Nancy Pelosi has said she’d be ok with losing a few seats if she could get this bill passed.  Here’s a summary:

For starters, the bill is a lot more expensive than advertised. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) pegs its cost at $1.055 trillion over 10 years, not the $894 billion Mrs. Pelosi claims. Politico reports that “the legislation is projected to create deficits over the second five years” by front-loading revenue and benefit cuts and back-loading costs. The real cost, according to a Republican House Budget Committee report, could be $2.4 trillion for its first decade of operation.

In its first 10 years, the bill calls for $572 billion in new taxes (including a 5.4% income surtax on anyone making more than $500,000 a year), and $426 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts, which will hurt seniors and the poor and could lead to rationing of care.

The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation reported recently that the House’s legislation will whack small businesses because they would pay $153.5 billion of the surtax. Small businesses unable to provide health coverage to their workers would also pay up to 8% in new payroll taxes. This would cost them $135 billion more over the next decade, thereby diminishing their ability to create jobs.

In the House bill there is a $2 billion tax on those who already have health insurance, $20 billion in taxes on medical devices, $8 billion in taxes on anyone who buys over-the-counter drugs with money from their health-savings accounts, and $140 billion in higher taxes on drugs.

Mrs. Pelosi’s bill will drive up premiums. A family of four with an income of $78,000 would pay $13,800 for insurance a year by 2016, according to CBO. Their tab would average $11,000 without the bill.

Every American would be required to buy health insurance or be fined up to 2.5% of their income.

If they vote “yes” this albatross will be hung around the neck of every Democrat in the House – the blue dogs are particularly squeamish about it. Adding those who don’t like the abortion provision (among Democrats) and you have more than enough to defeat it. So why is Pelosi pushing it now? Like Reid, she isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to pure intelligence, but unlike Reid, she knows here domain and how to count votes.

How will she pull this off without some major changes or major concessions? I’m not sure, but right now, experts who are just as adept at counting votes as the whip say there aren’t enough to pass it. Watch and listen carefully as the week finishes with a scheduled vote on Saturday. If she figures out she doesn’t have the votes, we should see a delay. But if she thinks she has them, she’ll be pushing like hell to have the vote this weekend.

~McQ

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Will Waxman-Markey Inspire A Trade War?

Apparently it will according to some who have actually beaten their way through the entire bill and read the contents:

The Ways and Means Committee’s proposed bill language (pdf) would virtually require that the president impose an import tariff on any country that fails to clamp down on greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course in this full bore onslaught of major life changing legislation which the Democrats seem determined to push through the Congress as quickly as they can (citing the imminent crisis it will foment if they don’t), this issue seems to be lost in the shuffle:

“This is a sleeper issue that lawmakers have not been paying enough attention to,” said Jake Colvin, vice president for global trade issues at the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents multinational corporations like Boeing Co. and Microsoft Corp. advocating for an open international trading system.

“The danger is, you focus so much on leveling the playing field for U.S. firms, that you neglect the potentially serious consequences that this could have on the international trading system,” Colvin said.

Ya think?

Nancy Peolosi is aiming for a vote in the House this Friday, before the July 4th recess. That obviously will mean very, very limited debate, if any. As NRO notes:

Not content to tempt political fate by imposing huge carbon taxes on the American middle class, Democrats have added a provision which imposes stiff tariffs on our trading partners if they don’t adopt aggressive carbon restrictions of their own.

You heard correctly: progressives have authored a bill that earns the mortal enmity of domestic energy consumers and our most crucial trading partners at the same time. Economy-killing climate policies and a trade war — together at last!

The devil is in the details:

Leaks from Hill offices indicate that the president would now be forced to impose the carbon tariffs — and could only opt out of doing so with permission from both chambers of Congress. Carbon-intensive imports would be subject to penalties at the border unless the country of origin requires emission reduction measures at least 80 percent as costly as ours. (The original Waxman-Markey bill had a threshold of 60 percent.)

Brilliant. Of course, some are going to argue that such measures surely will not be in the Senate version and not survive the reconciliation process when the two versions are merged. With this Congress I wouldn’t bet the farm on that.

There’s some talk that the blue dogs are going to oppose this bill. Obviously you would expect the GOP to oppose it as well. Are there enough other Dems to oppose so as to defeat it? Pelosi may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to many things, but over the years she has learned to count votes I’m sure.

Bottom line: this bill is an economy killer, plain and simple. But it is also a progressive wet-dream shared by Pelosi. She is going to do everything in her power to push it through the House.

~McQ