The Difficulties of Reconcilliation

by Sal on March 1, 2010

in Health Care,Politics

Keith Hennessy, a former Senate staffer, has a very detailed article about the challenges that the reconciliation process poses for the Democrats.  The Democrats keep talking about it, but to actually execute the plan is far more difficult than it appears.  I have had my doubts on whether or not the Democrats could pull off reconciliation for a while, but Hennessy makes it seem nearly impossible, at least from my point of view.  There are so many things that can go wrong, I have a hard time seeing House members voting for the Senate bill as-is (a necessary first step) with a “promise” from both the Senate and the Speaker that the reconciliation bill will pass, when it is not at all certain.

Take this scenario:  The House Democrats pass the Senate Bill in its current form, then initiate the reconciliation ‘fix.’  Harry Reid has trouble executing in the Senate, and shuts it down.  Pelosi (being the nut-job that she is) basically says to hell with the promises of the reconciliation fix, and sends the original Senate bill to Obama for his signature.  This to me is the crux of the problem.  Many in the House are not at all happy with the Senate bill, and I don’t see a lot of support for passing it first when there is a high probability that it will eventually be what becomes the law.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike March 1, 2010 at 4:12 pm

I don’t think the House wouldn’t have to pass the Senate bill as a first step. They could pass the House bill with reconciliation instructions and then the Senate could pass the House bill with 51. Yes, they’d be violating Senate rules all over the place, but don’t expect rules to stop them. They decide who sits in the Parliamentarian’s chair.

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Sal March 1, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Sen. Kent Conrad this weekend stated that reconciliation could not be used to pass a whole health care bill, only “minor tweaks” to the existing Senate bill. From what I understand (I could be wrong), any reconciliation instruction has to go through his committee.

I haven’t seen your scenario mentioned anywhere as a possibility. It’s always “pass the Senate bill then pass a second bill as a reconciliation ‘fix’.” Now, that doesn’t mean that your not right and that the Democrats aren’t contemplating what you’re saying, but that hasn’t been posited anywhere that I can see in the media or elsewhere.

The other thing is that IF they pass a bill purely on 51 votes, it will be far easier for the GOP to strip it down in a future Congress than if they only pass tweaks to the Senate bill, as that Senate bill already passed with 60 votes and would require cloture to repeal it. If it is a pure reconciliation bill, then the next Senate simply passes a repeal with 51 votes.

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Mike March 1, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Tweaks won’t be an issue at all. If Pelosi had the votes to pass the Senate bill, then it would already be law and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

The “new bill approach” is the only approach that could work under reconciliation and that new bill would have to be the House bill (with reconciliation instructions). Anything different will give the soft yes votes from last time the excuse to vote no this time. With public opinion where it is now as opposed to then, that is what would happen.

Kent Conrad gives me little comfort. He is not the presiding officer. He is not the Parliamentarian. That individual, hand picked by Harry Reid if not Joe Biden himself, will have the final say over “interpreting” the rules on reconciliation.

If no Democrat has brought my path up, then I question how serious they are about passing this abomination.

ETA: I suppose my point is that the Senate isn’t the Democrats’ problem because they’re just making up rules as they go along. House members are up every two years and are now too close to election time to simply rubber stamp Pelosi’s wishes. Any bill that passes is going to have be damn close to the one the House already passed.

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