Democrat Leadership to Push ObamaCare Reconcilliation Bill

by Sal on January 26, 2010

in Election 2010,Health Care,Politics

So the Democrat leaders are insistent on trying to drive their party off a cliff by using budget reconciliation as a tactic to try to ram ObamaCare through.  Here’s the situation:  the ObamaCare bill that passed the Senate does not have enough support in the House without significant changes.  Everything from the public option, to the union exception from the so-called “Cadillac tax”, to the differences on abortion pose problem for different factions of the Democrat caucus in the House.  So, to try to get the bill through, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid want to create a compromise plan, have the House pass the Senate bill as-is, and then attempt a second bill that “fixes” the first and introduce it through Budget Reconciliation, thus only requiring 51 votes in the Senate and the President’s signature to ultimately become law.  There are, however, some flaws to this strategy:

  • This new tactic has not yet been agreed to by the Democrat rank-and-file.  There are many in the caucus who are wary of using any procedural moves to ram ObamaCare through after the Senate win by Scott Brown last week and the outrage over the Louisiana Purchase and the Cornhusker Kickback.  A group of blue-dogs, now concerned with saving their own skin, would rather go back to the drawing board and work with Republicans to try to create a bi-partisan bill, and thus give them political cover.
  • Reconciliation carries its own procedural headaches.  First, it could only be used to resolve budget matters.  So while it is likely that it could be used to exempt the unions from the Cadillac Tax, it likely couldn’t be used to insert a public option or to change the abortion provisions in the bill.  Thus, a large part of the bill that makes House Democrats unhappy would be unalterable.
  • The House would have to pass the Senate Bill before amending it with the Reconciliation bill, and then they would have to rely on faith that the Senate would pass the agreed-upon compromises.  Many members of the House have publicly expressed frustration with the Senate, and it is not known how much faith they really have in the upper chamber.
  • There is no guarantee that the compromises reached would be able to get through the parliamentary hurdles of reconciliation.  The Byrd rule allows a challenge to each and every measure that it qualifies to reduce the deficit or is germane to the budget, and it is unclear how the Senate Parliamentarian would rule on the compromises.  With that risk, many members of Congress might not be willing to pass the Senate bill, only to hope for a fix that may never occur.

In the end, the election of Scott Brown has made this process a lot more treacherous for the rank-and-file Dems, and the leadership may very well not get what it wants.  I still see Pelosi having a hard time getting 218 members to swallow the Senate bill with only the “promise” of a reconciliation compromise, and since she only had a 2-vote margin of error (one being a Republican who said he would not vote for the bill this time around), I don’t see a scenario where this passes.  Yet Obama, Pelosi, and Reid will attempt at every course to drive their caucus over a cliff, on the promise that Obama’s charisma is enough to catch them at the bottom.

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