Clinton preferred to use reconciliation to pass HillaryCare in the 1990s, but he was dissuaded by West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, who argued that it would be an abuse of the process. Mr. Byrd, author of a four-volume history of Senate rules and procedures, told the Washington Post last March that “The misuse of the arcane process of reconciliation—a process intended for deficit reduction—to enact substantive policy changes is an undemocratic disservice to our people and to the Senate’s institutional role,” specifically citing health reform and cap and trade.
The House, attempting to pass the Senate bill, will make it law only once the President signs it. However, there are some adjustments the House wants to make to the Senate bill. These would normally have been done in conference committee with both chambers passing the resulting modified bill.
But, the Massachusetts election left the Democrats with less than 60 votes in the Senate, so they can’t pass a modified bill there anymore. So the modifications the House wants to the Senate bill will be approved via reconciliation, which requires only 51 votes.
Reconciliation is a maneuver used to modify or “reconcile” a bill that has already been passed by the House and Senate and only requires a simple majority vote because debate is limited by Senate rule to 20 hours. It’s used fairly irregularly – maybe once every several years or so. For example, the Bush tax cuts were passed using reconciliation.
The heated debate about it’s use here is because of what’s called the “Byrd rule.” The Byrd rule, (named after Robert Byrd), says basically that reconciliation can not be used for making changes to bills when the changes would increase the deficit. The problem is that the determination of whether the reconciliation bill violates the Byrd Rule is made by the Presiding Officer of the Senate, Joe Biden, and he can only be overruled by a 60 vote supermajority.
The process is:
The House ‘must pass the Senate bill’ in it’s entirety as written. This could already be a stumbling block for the Dem’s because the Blue Dogs in the House don’t like the Senate bill’s language re: abortion. To get around this, the Senate may pass it’s reconciliation bill before the House votes on the original Senate Bill. But doubtful.
The House and Senate are going to have to pass another bill that includes the changes to the original Senate bill that they wish to make. This is the Reconciliation Bill. It will only require a simple majority in both houses, meaning 51 votes. The Senate may very well try to pass it’s reconciliation bill before the House votes on the original Senate bill. But, the Senate won’t risk the war on Reconciliation until they know that the House can pass the Senate version FIRST. So, the House is going to have to pass the Senate version before Reconciliation begins.
Last, the POTUS needs to sign both bills. Bills take effect in the order that they are signed by the President, not in the order they are passed by the Legislature. As long as the President signs the original Senate Bill one second before he signs the Reconciliation Bill to modify it, they will take effect as designed by the Dem’s. Again, the Blue Dogs have to trust that the President will indeed sign the reconciliation bill. He could simply sign the original Senate Bill and veto the reconciliation bill to leave the original Senate Bill intact.
That’s the process in a nutshell.
In short, The House would pass the Senate bill in its entirety. But, before they do that, both Houses of Congress would pass (preemptively, if you will) a Reconciliation Bill. Those two pieces of legislation would then travel to Obama for his signature.
If the House passes the Senate bill in full then there is no need for reconciliation… What am I missing here?
You are correct.
What the Senate Democrats are doing is trying to woo some Democrat House members to vote on the Bill with the promise that ‘problems’ will be addressed in Reconciliation. House members will not vote for the Senate bill without ‘reconciling’ the differences.
But the Bill would be Law even if Reconciliation didn’t happen. As it is now, the Senate doesn’t like the House bill and the House doesn’t like the Senate bill.
“Why would the house pass the original senate bill and trust the senate to modify it at a later date? Barry could just sign the dang thing and say “too bad” right? “
The answer is that they couldn’t. Because it’s a Reconciliation Bill, the Constitution demands that it originate in the House. Therefore, the House will pass the Reconciliation Bill, then the Senate will pass the Reconciliation Bill, then the House will pass the original Senate bill.
This is perfectly fine – although something of a Parliamentary sleight of hand, so long as the President signs the original Senate bill (passed by both houses of Congress), then he signs the Reconciliation bill (again, passed by both houses). In the end, the President will sign two bills.
“Has any piece of legislation ever been this convoluted?”
Legislation has passed some 22 (or so) times using Reconciliation. But, NEVER for something this big and socially impacting, and never with this legislative sleight of hand. The Dem’s have proven themselves to be formidable foes. Hopefully, it’s a lesson not soon forgotten by the GOP.
“Can’t Republicans propose amendment after amendment to stall this thing?”
Rick Santorum was talking about this on Greta’s show… he called it a “Vote-a-Rama”. There is a process whereby an unlimited number of amendments can be put up for a vote. Since there is NO limit the Republicans can drag this out forever, seemingly. I also heard on Fox from Krauthammer that the VP (Biden) can rule on the Amendments but cannot stop them from being offered up. Unless Krauthammer was dead wrong, this thing is far from over. But technically, Biden can overrule the parliamentarian at any time.
“Yeah, but this is political suicide for Dem’s. Can the Republicans repeal it?
This monstrosity of a bill could be repealed by reconciliation — assuming we have a GOP House and Senate next year – but there is a certain obstructionist in the White House who would veto any such repeal through January 20, 2013. And the GOP would never have the 2/3 majority in both chambers to override a presidential veto.
Consider this: the HC bill can be repealed the same way that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid can be repealed. It isn’t that it’s procedurally impossible to repeal it. It is more that it takes the stars aligning just right to make it even potentially possible. The whole privatizing Social Security failure took a lot of wind out of Bush’s sails. Laws tend to keep adding up, not disappear.
For example, try repealing…oh say, Social Security, Income Tax, Death Tax, Public Schools, Mandated Inoculations, Universal Fees, Cigarette taxes, Excise tax, The USPS
Government Retirement Funds, The IRS, Fuel Tax, Blah, blah, blah, blah, etc, etc, etc… eye’s bleeding, head splitting….
But the caveat here with “health care” is that it’s not supposed to start until 2012 or such (taxes start immediately), so strictly speaking, repeal could happen before the populace has its claws in it, such as being used to it; SS being an example. You could try to replace the legislation altogether after 2010 with the right make-up of a conservative Congress.
Maybe repeal of this bill will be the central issue of the 2010 and 2012 campaigns, should it pass. If this monstrosity does pass, the Republicans will need a 2/3’s vote to override a guaranteed Obama veto. It will never happen unless 2010 is an exceptionally phenomenal year for the GOP.
Call your Congressman now: 202-224-3121