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  • Reconciliation and Obamacare A “Bad Mix”

    Recent reports indicate that House and Senate leaders are considering using reconciliation as a means to pass Obamacare (again).  The reconciliation process is a fast-track way to bypass the normal legislative process and to speed up consideration (and passage) of such a bill.  And The Hill reports that there are political reasons to go with reconciliation: “reconciliation is enormously appealing to Democratic lawmakers and the White House because it would let them finish up health care reform by a simple majority in the upper chamber, where passing major bills usually requires 60 votes.”  Clearly the liberals want to use reconciliation because it is the easiest way to get a bill to the President’s desk before Easter.  But if they use it on Obamacare, then they will completely toss aside the letter and spirit of reconciliation rules.

    Reconciliation is the last step in the annual budgeting process and is optional.  It was originally designed in the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to affect permanent spending and revenue programs in order to promote deficit reduction.  Reconciliation instructions call for reduced spending or increased revenues, and in 1985 and 1986 these instructions were further clarified with the Byrd Rule, which allows Senators to raise a point of order against extraneous matter that is included in the reconciliation bill.  This new rule includes 6 criteria to determine if legislative language is “extraneous” or not, and they all serve to further protect the purpose of reconciliation: to reduce the deficit.

    In order to enact the Byrd Rule, the following the process has to happen:
    1)    A Senator is recognized by the Presiding Officer and raises a point of order against extraneous matter in the reconciliation bill according to the Byrd Rule.
    2)    Then, the Presiding Officer, generally acting in accordance with the Parliamentarian’s ruling, either acknowledges the point of order and strikes the legislative language as extraneous, or denies the point of order, and allows the language to stay in.  Both motions can be done without debate.

    Now let’s apply this process to Obamacare.  According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), “federal outlays for health care would increase during the 2010–2019 period, as would the federal budgetary commitment to health care” in the Senate and House bills.  The bills both commit the federal government to over $2 trillion in spending.  Clearly, adding Obamacare to a reconciliation process would be quite contrary to the spirit of reconciliation (to reduce the deficit).

    Normally rulings such as whether a point of order stands is done by the Senate parliamentarian, and enforced by the Senator acting as Presiding Officer.  But there is no rule against bucking the parliamentarian, assuming the parliamentarian follows the letter of the rule.  In fact, because the Vice President is the President of the Senate, he can reside as Presiding Officer himself and rule the legislative provisions of Obamacare in order, and leave the only recourse for Republicans to be to appeal the ruling of the chair.

    Reconciliation was not intended to be the procedure of last resort when other means fail, and to do so would be a complete abuse of reconciliation rules.   Some may bring up other examples of massive legislation passed through reconciliation bills as proof that using reconciliation bills to explode government spending is okay, but past instances of wrongdoing does not make it acceptable to add $2 trillion dollars worth of health care spending acceptable for a bill that is supposed to reduce the deficit.  In this time of trillion dollar deficits, is nothing sacred?  Even the one bill that is tasked with decreasing the deficit?

    But there is hope for conservatives.  The aforementioned Hill article quotes former Senate Parliamentarian Bob Dove on a recent Galen Institute conference call where Dove argued that health care reform and reconciliation are a bad mix. Dove explained that the reconciliation “process is not designed to do a lot of policy making and it would be very difficult to achieve a number of things that people want to achieve” in the health care reform legislation.  He points out that the reconciliation process does not limit amendments, leaving an opportunity for conservatives to delay passage by offering slews of amendments.  So, while the majority party may be able to control what language is allowed in the bill or amendments, the minority may still have a chance to delay passage with a strategic amendment strategy.

    Posted in Obamacare [slideshow_deploy]

    10 Responses to Reconciliation and Obamacare A “Bad Mix”

    1. Kevin Habib, Glen Bu says:

      That's a sad and disappointing post. Funny how you talk of not wanting to bring up past abuses for reconciliation by the GOP – especially the uses in 2001 and 2003 – which was first time it was ever used to ADD TO THE DEFICIT.

      CBO – which Heritage cites as the budegt scorekeeper for Congress – says health reform will reduce the deficit.

      In this time of recession, when the right says they want to work together and get work done – you still want them to continue to stall. Good to knwo what type fo government you want. Delay and stall and get nothing done.

    2. Bobbie Jay says:

      There is simply no honesty. The government spends more time and money hiding their agenda, then giving any solid, responsible solutions.

      PLEASE REPUBLICANS, don't fall for this DANGER being put on the American people! People of all skin colors and ethnicities are stronger then the president wants to give us credit for.


    3. Pingback: Michelle Malkin » Reconciliation, the public option, and Demcare revival

    4. Pingback: Health Care Nuclear Option – Liberals Ready to Launch | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

    5. John says:

      Obama is a liar and a jerk to begin with. He also will be flipping off the whole country if he does this. Democrats don't want to listen to anybody, and certainly not the people of America who DO NOT WANT this bill. Obama would bankrupt a free lemonade stand on a hot day in the desert.

    6. Pingback: The Amend-o-rama marathon strategy - RealQuiet’s blog - RedState

    7. Ted Cole says:

      @Kevin Habib The only time that liberals deem it okay to delay government is when conservatives are trying to lower taxes and increase individual freedoms. It is so pathetic to see how desperate liberals are to save the failed agenda of Obama and liberals in congress. Reconciliation is a desperate move by a failed congress and failed administration. I thought that Obama would listen to the wants and needs of the people but he done nothing of the sort. He is an empty-suit, puffed-up amateur.

      The good thing is that come November of this year all the moronic moves of the left in this country will be countered with sweeping, real change. Reid will be gone, Pelosi might be out of power and the libs will be castrated in congress. Now that is change that the rest of the country can believe in… not this sugarcoated BS that Obama sold us.

      I can't wait to stalwart his agenda… I can't wait until 2012 when we rid ourselves of the mistake that was Obama. It will be a great moment in American history for sure. This president is the largest failure this country has seen since Carter. None of his promises have or will come true because he doesn't understand or like this country very much. The European model is a model steeped in failure and it's the path Obama and the rest of his pack of idiots wants to take this country.

      I prefer capitalism… it just works.

    8. Pingback: Health Care Nuclear Option – Liberals Ready to Launch | Step Down Obama

    9. john, Albuquerque, N says:

      Bring on the amendments and apeals!

      Seriously, the only way to stop this legislation is for all of America to squeeze within the confines of the senate hall, and play keep away with the bill! This is what I mean by a takeover of government! Not a violent revolution but a big frat party disturbance of policy making. Bring some kegs of beer and some pizza and we might be able to get congress drunk enough to forget about the hole think. Lets sabotage the proccesses with public disturbnace! A friendly march on Washington is all that is needed!

    10. john, Albuquerque, N says:

      If a person likes the permanince of wool for a coat, and the flavor of cool-aid, well Europian soft-tyranny is the way for them! "Soft"-tyrrany actually means soft and fuzzy like wool! Soft-tyrrany is the most dispicable because it points out that the populace is un-willing to fight the unjust policies these libs want! European socialism is soft tyranny and it is a grave insult to the people of Europe for it shows they are willing to be fenced in and controlled! Americans don't grow wool and we don't drink cool-aid, if our rejection of soft tyrrany leads to violent tyrrany so be it.

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