Friday, March 5, 2010

The Meat of Reconciliation and the Republican Advantage

 by Maggie Thornton

I struggle to understand how "reconciliation" can be used, or fail, especially once I understood that Vice President Joe Biden could override a decision to utilize the Bryd Rule. Two articles reveal the meat of reconciliation and a possible Republican advantage.

Indulge me readers: In the Health Care Schematic above - Courtesy Democrats, the following are a few of the departments included:
Departments of Civil Rights, Minority Health, CULTURAL AND LINGUISTIC COMPETENCE TRAINING, Nurse Education and Training, Language Demonstration Program,
Accountable Care Organization, Federal Mandates for Websites, Low Income Subsidy, Health Affordability Credits, MANDATE BUY INSURANCE

Marc Thiessen, writing in the Washington Post today, explains it all the way down to the bottom line.

In order to get a reconciliation bill with the fixes they demand to the Senate floor, Stupak and his pro-life colleagues must first vote to pass the original Senate health care bill -- including the abortion language they oppose. Only after this bill is passed in the House can the chamber then take up a reconciliation bill and send it to the Senate for its approval. 
That’s where the “Byrd rule” comes in. Designed to protect the rights of the minority, the Byrd rule allows any Senator to raise a point of order demanding that “extraneous” (non-budgetary) provisions be removed. According to former Senate parliamentarian Bob Dove, “If a ‘Byrd Rule’ point of order against a provision is sustained, the provision is stricken from the bill….Appealing the rule of the chair requires 3/5 vote of duly elected and sworn Senators (60 votes).” (This process is known colloquially in the Senate as a “Byrd bath” and the dropped provisions are known as “Byrd droppings.”)
Republicans intend to raise points of order against the reconciliation package. They believe it is virtually certain that the Senate parliamentarian would find any abortion deal Pelosi makes with pro-life House Democrats to be “extraneous” (there is no reasonable way to argue the provision is primarily budgetary). So any abortion deal with Stupak and his allies would be struck from the bill....
 From the Huffington Post: This is where Joe Biden comes in. As president of the Senate he can overrule the parliamentarian:
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...
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." 
 Biden can choose whether or not to accept the parliamentarian's decision or rule that more or fewer amendments can be passed through reconciliation. That ruling is subject to appeal -- but the appeal is decided by majority vote.
Back to Theissen:
Using the Byrd rule, Republicans will proceed to pick apart every element of these deals Pelosi makes, piece by piece. It is unclear which provisions would survive scrutiny under the Byrd rule. But each time a point of order is sustained, it requires 60 votes to overturn that ruling -- which means Senate Republicans have the votes necessary block key elements of the reconciliation package.
...If this happens, the amended reconciliation bill would go back to the House , where Stupak and others would then likely oppose it. Reconciliation would be dead. 
And now the bottom line from Robert Dove:
I said the VP COULD have the final say--but no VP since Hubert Humphrey has ruled in any instance against the advice of the Parliamentarian."
There is a next step, though, that might leave the Speaker a happy lady. Read it at the Washington Post. 

In the end, Thiessen says Stupak and other pro-life Democrats in the House have no leverage IF they choose to go along with Pelosi with reconciliation. The only way to ensure that abortion funding language is eliminated is to reject reconciliation and demand that the House and Senate start over.


©2007-2012copyrightMaggie M. Thornton