Free Markets, Free People

reconciliation

Harry Reid promises to bring Public Option to a vote in the next few months

Huzzah!

No, not really – but I’m sure that’s the reaction on much of the “progressive” left.  Most of them figure without a public option the chance of actually swinging a government single payer system is a whole lot harder.   With it, they have a pretty good chance.  Harry Reid promises to oblige:

Hoping to assuage progressive Democrats who remain disappointed with the content of the health care reform bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) committed on Friday to holding a separate vote on a public option in the coming months.

In a letter to two of his more progressive colleagues in the Senate — Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Bernie Sanders of Vermont — the Nevada Democrat implicitly apologized for his inability to get a government-run insurance plan into the final piece of health care legislation and promised to keep working to get the policy into law.

And don’t expect Mr. Reid to follow the rules of the Senate when he does – oh, no, that day is over apparently (well, except when his party is in the minority again – the caterwauling will be epic).

The search now is for a vehicle outside health care reform to get a public plan into law. The same institutional hurdles that killed the provision in the previous go-rounds — mainly that there aren’t 60 supportive senators to break a filibuster — remain. But aides on the Hill are already looking to future reconciliation vehicles to which they can attach the public plan, which would, in turn, allow for it to pass via an up-or-down vote

Welcome to the world’s largest Banana Republic.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

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.

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

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]

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Health Care Reform On The Brink

Although I am on the record as predicting that Congress will get some sort of health care bill to the president’s desk, I am hoping that my prediction is wildly inaccurate. Arguably the most important factor in whether I end up being right or not is the decision being made by the Senate and House parliamentarians:

The White House and Democratic Congressional leaders said Tuesday that they were bracing for a key procedural ruling that could complicate their effort to approve major health care legislation, by requiring President Obama to sign the bill into law before Congress could revise it through an expedited budget process.

An official determination on the matter could come within days from the House and Senate parliamentarians, and could present yet another hurdle for Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders as they try to lock in support from skittish lawmakers in the House.

[...]

The most immediate question seemed to be how parliamentarians would rule on the steps that Democrats must follow. The reconciliation instructions require that committees “report changes in laws” that help meet deficit reduction targets.

Democrats are planning to use budget reconciliation to make the final health care revisions because it circumvents a Republican filibuster in the Senate and can be adopted by a simple majority vote rather than 60-vote supermajority normally required.

Something the parliamentarians need to answer is whether or not the Senate bill, currently sitting in Speaker Pelosi’s office, needs to be either passed by the House and/or signed by the President Obama before the “Reconciliation Bill” can even be considered.

No, No

If the answer to the initial question — does the Senate bill have to pass the House? — is “no,” then the House can get to work drafting the “fixes” they want in the Senate bill, and shaping them to fit within the budgetary confines of the reconciliation process. Since any fix that doesn’t have to do with the budget will be cut from the reconciliation bill, how that bill is drafted will be vitally important to keeping the House “yes” voters together. If, for example, provisions relating to Rep. Stupak’s desire to prevent federal funding of abortion are deemed to be non-budget related, then he and his pro-life group of congressmen will not want to vote for the Senate bill. However, because reconciliation apparently requires that the bill being “fixed” be submitted to the CBO for scoring first, then, in the very least the Senate bill must be passed by the House.

Yes, No

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.

Yes, Yes

If, instead, the House must both pass the Senate Bill and get it signed by the President before the reconciliation bill can be considered, then health care legislation is likely 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.

As I understand it, there are numerous variables in play that could decide which of these scenarios is the winner, so nothing is terribly certain at this point. What is known, is that a favorable parliamentarians’ decision is crucial to ObamaCare becoming law.

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Yes They Can (And Will) — UPDATED

On last night’s podcast, I argued that Democrats in Congress will indeed pass something called “health care reform” even if the bill doesn’t accomplish almost anything they claimed it would. For close to a century, government-controlled health care has been the holy grail of the statist set, and they aren’t about to pass up the best (and perhaps last) opportunity they have to see that goal through. Andy McCarthy admonished Republicans to keep this in mind when counting unhatched Senate and House seats from this Fall’s elections:

Today’s Democrats are controlled by the radical Left, and it is more important to them to execute the permanent transformation of American society than it is to win the upcoming election cycles. They have already factored in losing in November — even losing big. For them, winning big now outweighs that. I think they’re right.

I hear Republicans getting giddy over the fact that “reconciliation,” if it comes to that, is a huge political loser. That’s the wrong way to look at it. The Democratic leadership has already internalized the inevitablility of taking its political lumps. That makes reconciliation truly scary. Since the Dems know they will have to ram this monstrosity through, they figure it might as well be as monstrous as they can get wavering Democrats to go along with. Clipping the leadership’s statist ambitions in order to peel off a few Republicans is not going to work. I’m glad Republicans have held firm, but let’s not be under any illusions about what that means. In the Democrat leadership, we are not dealing with conventional politicians for whom the goal of being reelected is paramount and will rein in their radicalism. They want socialized medicine and all it entails about government control even more than they want to win elections. After all, if the party of government transforms the relationship between the citizen and the state, its power over our lives will be vast even in those cycles when it is not in the majority. This is about power, and there is more to power than winning elections, especially if you’ve calculated that your opposition does not have the gumption to dismantle your ballooning welfare state.

Bruce thinks McCarthy is being overly generous with respect to the courageousness of congress members, and that in the end the House will not have enough votes to pass the Senate bill, and thus start the reconciliation process (which Keith Hennessey describes quite well). Enmity between the two houses of congress, in particular the House’s distrust of the Senate to pass a new bill “fixing” the first bill, may make passage of the first bill impossible. Making the task of passing a reconciliation bill even more herculean are some procedural quirks that potentially allow an infinite series of amendments to be offered during the vote-a-rama process in the Senate, and the great likelihood that much of the bill will violate the Byrd Rule, which negates provisions that do not deal with the budget (for a great explanation of both, once again, visit Mr. Hennessey). To top it all off, if the reconciliation bill increases the long-term budget (more than ten years out), then the whole thing automatically gets scrapped (again, see Hennessey). That’s quite a lot to overcome.

However, I think the Democrats, and especially President Obama, are bound and determined to pass something regardless of the high hurdles to be faced in the process or the eventual political costs. This is Obama’s legacy, after all, and the only thing he’s really spent any time on during his presidency. If there is any way that Congress can pass something resembling a health care bill, they will do it. The Senate has already done it’s job on this score, and voting weaknesses in the House virtually ensure that Nancy Pelosi can wrangle assurances from Harry Reid that the Senate will pass the reconciliation bill. The final version may be swiss cheese, and the Byrd Rule is likely to knock out several provisions that are necessary to get votes (think “Stupak amendment”), but in the end I believe that the Democrats can cobble something together that will garner majority votes in both houses and be sent to the president for his signature. This issue is simply too important to the left to let go.

Something else to keep in mind, with respect to vote counting, is that any Democrat congress member who has decided to “retire” ahead of this Fall’s elections will have no repercussions from voting for either the Senate bill or the reconciliation bill. The seats of these lame-duck congressmen are viewed by Republicans a potential pick-up’s for the next congress, when they should be worried about how the lame ducks will be voting.

In the end, I think that Reid and Pelosi deliver something in the way of a public option with tax hikes and that Obama will declare victory when he signs the bill into law. There’s certainly no virtue in this process, but then, there’s really no virtue left in Washington, so that should come as no surprise.

UPDATE: “The Biden Situation”

According to Norman Ornstein, of AEI, and Robert Dove, former Senate parliamentarian, the unlimited amendment tactic during vote-a-rama may not be all it’s cracked up to be [HT: AllahPundit]:

Should passing health care reform come down to the use of reconciliation — and all signs point that way — Vice President Joseph Biden could play a hugely influential role in determining not only what’s in the bill but whether or not it passes.

Two experts in the arcane rules of the Senate said on Monday that, as president of the Senate, Biden has the capacity not just to overrule any ruling that the parliamentarian may make but also to cut off efforts by Republicans to offer unlimited amendments.

“Ultimately it’s the Vice President of the United States [who has the power over the reconciliation process],” Robert Dove, who served as Senate parliamentarian on and off from 1981-2001, told MSNBC this morning. “It is the decision of the Vice President whether or not to play a role here… And I have seen Vice Presidents play that role in other very important situations… The parliamentarian can only advise. It is the vice president who rules.”

[...]

“The vice president can rule that amendments are dilatory,” Norm Ornstein, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and one of the foremost experts on congressional process, told the Huffington Post. “That they are not serious attempts to amend the bill but are designed without substance to obstruct. He can rule them out of order and he can do that on bloc.”

“There are time limits,” Ornstein added. “It is not that they can keep doing it over and over again.”

How ironic that the same man who famously mangled the VP’s constitutional role in the Senate might possibly wield that very power to foist ObamaCare on us. Well, I guess it’s no more ironic than the “Kennedy seat” busting a filibuster-proof majority that was depended upon to deliver Kennedy’s life-long dream of government-run health care.

Just the same, I wouldn’t count on ObamaCare being dead and gone just yet.

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

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

The Coming “Health Care Summit” Ambush

Maybe I’m just  being a bit paranoid about this upcoming televised “health care summit” that President Obama has decided is suddenly so necessary.  Maybe it’s that I see politics in every move this guy makes.  This summit just isn’t what it seems and, at least to me, that seems apparent.  What it is however is the perfect opportunity for Obama to play at statesman, provide himself an opportunity to keep a campaign promise and finally make – for once and for all – the GOP the bad guys in all of this.

Here’s the scenario I envision:

Fresh off his televised performance at the GOP retreat in Baltimore a few weeks ago, which received rave reviews from the usual media suspects, the administration hit upon an idea. TV is and always has been the prefect medium for Barack Obama. And the format at the retreat was perfect for him – it allowed him to lecture, cajole and demonize without any real opposition. Why not do that again on an even bigger scale and for some big stakes? Why not do it on health care?

What has been a problem for the Democrats? The public doesn’t like their health care bill. And their continued attempts to pass it have only cause the public to like it even less. But Democrats know that this is the only window of opportunity they’re likely to have and it is closing rapidly. So how do they get the public on their side and get this bill passed? The easiest way is a distraction and a bit of blame shifting. Good TV. The fact that Obama has made it clear that he has no intention of seeing the present and pending Senate bill scrapped should be sounding warning bells among the GOP. This isn’t about compromise. This isn’t about “bi-partisanship”. This is about a justification for passing health care via reconcilliation by showing the Republicans as the “party of ‘no'”.

Think about it. Who controls the format and tone of the the “summit”? Certainly not the GOP (and when they did they still came off looking pretty lame). So let’s say Obama says to the Democrats “what is it you want?” And they claim the “public option” (or whatever). Obama says it’s probably not going to happen. They act disappointed (but don’t forget they have 2200 pages of health care legislation already to be passed). Obama then asks the Republicans, “what do you want”. And they lay it all out – tort reform, drop the mandates, insurance across state lines, etc. And he say, “OK, we will put all that in the bill. Now will you support it?”

Heh … it’s the perfect question, because like any good lawyer, he already knows the answer. The answer is “no”. They’ve already made it clear they can’t support the Senate version of the bill – that’s the bill to be passed. And if they say yes, they may as well resign from office because the backlash will be such that they’d wish they had.

Obama gets his moment recorded by the TV cameras no less. And mournfully he pronounces the Republicans as obstructionists who refused to negotiate in good faith as the great and wonderful Democrats have offered to do. And because of that, it is with a heavy heart and reluctantly he is forced to agree with the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that reconciliation is the only route left open to them to do “what is right” for the American people.

Just hide and watch – I’m giving 3 to 1 odds I’m right. Don’t believe it? Read this and tell me it doesn’t indicate the scenario I’ve suggested.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

The Purpose Of The Health Care Summit?

Any number of people, myself included, have warned that the upcoming health care summit isn’t something the GOP really wants to involve itself in because it is a setup for something else. There’s something fishy about it. Other say those advising against it are paranoid and that the event provides Republicans with a great venue for making it clear they have always had plans and ideas concerning reforming health care.

I think it is becoming increasingly obvious the skeptics are most likely right. A very closed process – in which the GOP was excluded and closed-door meetings and backroom deals were common – is now suddenly open? And televised? It makes no sense except as a move to set up another move.

What would that other move be? Well first, consider the fact that the president and Democrats are unwilling to even consider scrapping the present Senate version of the bill and start over. If that doesn’t raise red flags everywhere, I’m not sure what would. Why, if the idea of the summit is to discuss everyone’s plans and ideas for health care reform, wouldn’t a clean slate be necessary?

Quite simply because that’s not the real purpose of the summit. The purpose of the summit is to justify reconciliation. There, I’ve said it. What Democrats need is cover to do what they feel they need to do in order to pass the Senate bill intact and then have the Senate use the reconciliation process which only requires a simple majority to fix certain parts of the bill to the House’s liking.

But publicly that’s a highly unpopular idea. That doesn’t change the fact that it is the only way Democrats can do this. So they need a demon. They need “obstructionists”. They need “the party of ‘no'” to be as uncooperative as they can make them and have that on public display.

Republicans seem to have at least an inkling of this. They know, or at least are pretty sure, that the Democrats have already agreed among themselves to use the reconciliation process. The latest member of the GOP to point to this was Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona. Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” he questioned the sincerity of Democrats and the president concerning this planned summit. In this case I think his political instincts are good. I think the GOP should hold out for some major concessions prior to any such meeting.

However all of that, one of the advantages of the invitation – given the desired outcome – is it becomes a win-win for Democrats even if Republicans don’t show up, at least by their calculation. They want a “party of ‘no'” and not showing up would demonstrate that even more handily than showing up would. Politically it is a very smart move.

The GOP needs to be ready to handle that sort of negative publicity when it comes as it most assuredly will. They need to point out what the real purpose of the summit was, that there was no desire on the part of Democrats to negotiate (given their pre-summit stance) or actually include Republican ideas and that Republicans simply chose not to participate in a sham designed to make them look uncooperative and justify the use of an unpopular procedure.

Not an easy roe to hoe, is it? Politically, the move by Obama and the Democrats is brilliant. The question is, will it actually bear the fruit that he and the Democratic leadership hope it will? While all of that political theater may work exactly as they wish, Nancy Pelosi may not have the votes necessary to pass the Senate bill.

That could end up being the final irony – the bill fails in the House because of the reelection concerns of members in marginal districts and a Democratic distrust of their colleagues in the Senate.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

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.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!