Conrad: Reconciliation won’t work for ObamaCare

posted at 12:30 pm on February 28, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

No wonder the Times was so pessimistic about reconciliation.  Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), who runs the committee that would have to run a reconciliation push, says that the budgetary process can’t be used for ObamaCare.  It would only address the actual budgetary issues, which leaves a lot off the table.  The Budget Committee chair told CBS’ Face the Nation audience that reconciliation wasn’t designed for this purpose, nor is it appropriate for such sweeping legislation:

“…reconciliation cannot be used to pass comprehensive health care reform. It won’t work. It won’t work because it was never designed for that kind of significant legislation. It was designed for deficit reduction… The major package of health care reform cannot move through the reconciliation process. It will not work… It will not work because of the Byrd rule which says anything that doesn’t score for budget purposes has to be eliminated. That would eliminate all the delivery system reform, all the insurance market reform, all of those things the experts tell us are really the most important parts of this bill. The only possible role that I can see for reconciliation would be make modest changes in the major package to improve affordability, to deal with what share of Medicaid expansion the federal government pays, those kinds of issues, which is the traditional role for reconciliation in health care.”

That’s a long clip, which replays the entire FTN segment on health care. Steny Hoyer insisted that ObamaCare would proceed in Congress, but not if the Senate Budget Committee refuses to play along with the reconciliation strategy. The House will not pass the Senate version of ObamaCare as the last word on the subject, not with the unions getting a big tax on their benefit plans. Even Hoyer seems to understand that much:

However, Hoyer deflected questions about whether there were enough votes in the House to pass the Democrats’ plans as outlined thus far. Even though a reform package passed in the chamber last November, many analysts think it could be harder to get the votes the next time.

“I don’t think we have the votes in terms of a specific proposal because there’s not a specific proposal on the table yet,” he said.

Hoyer added that he thinks a specific proposal will be put forth within “the next couple of weeks,” and then Democrats will start counting votes for that bill.

That almost sounds like the Democrats may have a do-over in the House. If so, then the process starts over from scratch. If the House passes a different bill than the one the Senate has on the table, then either Democrats have to have a conference committee — whose report can get filibustered in the Senate — or the Senate has to pass the new House version. Either way, that adds weeks to the process, and probably months … putting the debate squarely in the middle of the midterm general elections. It’s a disaster for Democrats, the worst of all possible worlds.

Update: I replaced the longer clip with a shorter one provided by CBS News, and they have a new report on Conrad’s comments:

With Democrats pledging to move ahead on their health care plans following Thursday’s bipartisan health care summit, much of the talk has focused on whether they will use a procedural method known as “reconciliation” to pass a final measure through he Senate.

Reconciliation would allow Democrats to pass the bill with 51 votes rather than have to overcome a Republican filibuster with 60 votes. Since Republicans now hold 41 votes in the 100-seat chamber following Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts last month, reconciliation appears to be on the radar for many Democrats. But the prospect has drawn fierce debate among Democrats and Republicans, as was evident during on Sunday’s “Face the Nation.”

Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, defended the possible use of reconciliation by saying that the procedure would only be used for “minor” issues with the bill.

“Defended” it only in general terms, of course; Conrad ruled out the use of reconciliation for the purposes foreseen by Harry Reid. Be sure to read it all the way through.


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AnninCA on February 28, 2010 at 1:12 PM

If you feel that bad about your Gen-X sons problems you can deal with them yourself. I survived having a young family w/o insurance while attending four years of school. When something happened we dealt with it like all responsible people do. BTW We didn’t qualify for medicade I made $2 per month too much. It was impossible to reduce my income by $2. I worked 2 part time jobs + Air Force Reserves + GI Bill. If I stopped any of the jobs we would have gone under. So with all due respect your son can buck up and do what is necessary to survive this time in his life. Many others have.

chemman on February 28, 2010 at 4:05 PM

Get something, anything, passed in a form that they can build on later through the amendment process.

KendraWilder on February 28, 2010 at 4:02 PM

I am hopeful that there will never be another progressive majority in congress! And that takes more than kicking out the current bums. The parties, both of them must be reclaimed by normal Americans.

Either Party is capable of building bigger government under the right circumstances. We need to kill that progressive mentality that has been creeping into our system.

Something weird happens to people who get sent to congress. They stop being normal people. They almost never have to worry about going back to normal life and living with the laws they make. It’s like academia that way. Everything congress does is only hypothetical for them and all too real for us.

petunia on February 28, 2010 at 5:40 PM

Just a little OT but kind of goes with this topic. Article from 8/31/09 that is still speaking loudly.
http://www.americanthinker.com/printpage/?url=http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/08/another_failed_presidency.html

sicoit on February 28, 2010 at 6:02 PM

Ugh..let’s try this again (face palm)
http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/08/another_failed_presidency.html

sicoit on February 28, 2010 at 6:05 PM

A few months back I heard someone who said that if reconciliation was used about 90% of the bill would have to cut because about 90% of the bill does not fit reconciliation requirements. Only provisions that may affect an actual budget could remain. That would throw out just all of what the lefties want.

Voter from WA State on February 28, 2010 at 5:05 PM

While being from Queen Chrissy’s fiefdom makes me partial to other fellow serfs, I must ask you want you’re thinking. Who do you expect to enforce this? The Rational Dems? Where are they hiding, cause I haven’t seen any for 20 years or so?

No, my friend, they will do it if they want to do it. No logic or pretext required.

platypus on February 28, 2010 at 6:14 PM

Something weird happens to people who get sent to congress. They stop being normal people. They almost never have to worry about going back to normal life and living with the laws they make. It’s like academia that way. Everything congress does is only hypothetical for them and all too real for us.

petunia on February 28, 2010 at 5:40 PM

You hit the crux of the matter spot on, petunia! Congressional members never have to live with the consequences of the legislation they pass since they’re guaranteed retirement income and health benefits so lucrative that they’re essentially insulated for life.

Unfortunately, it would probably take a Constitutional Convention to change things, and that would open up a Pandora’s Box of horrors via amendments that would totally negate anything positive brought about via the process.

KendraWilder on February 28, 2010 at 6:17 PM

If, IF, the dems go thru w/rconciliation, then it’ll be fair play when the conservatives gain a simple majority to start peeling back entitlements via reconciliation. Karma is beautiful

AH_C on February 28, 2010 at 6:50 PM

Everything for the democrat majority is pell mell now. God forbid the law of diminishing returns is applied to their failed logic to Obamacare. What do I mean by that? Case in point, look at the social security deduction taken out of your paychecks going back through the years. Has social security payroll deduction percentile gone up over the years? We know the the salary cap does. This is because the system originally designed was an unsustainable scheme from the outset without an infusion of new or additional funds. If the deductions from your paycheck were not increased, social security would have failed long ago. The law of diminishing returns – a law affirming that to continue after a certain level of performance has been reached will result in a decline in effectiveness. That is why it will periodically need to take away a higher percentage of your earned income to maintain the level of its effectiveness. This is the part of Obamacare that the democrats can’t sell to the American people at large. They are saying they have a plan to do this with a certain amount of money, but we know that it really translates into give us some money now, and oh by the way, we’ll be asking your children and grandchildren for higher percentage of their disposible income down the road. That is what happened to the soon to be bankrupted Social Security system. A mandated ponzi scheme is what we’re looking at here people. Why would Americans want to adopt a new pet project that will have in all likelyhood become another economic crippling pituitary gland like problem promoting an overall growth into an even bigger government bureaucracy, leading us further toward an abundance of unknown problems that have yet to raise their heads. That is why it is called a Trojan Horse. Just let it get into Troy and watch the destruction of the best health care system on earth and unravel our capitalist economy to boot.

Americannodash on February 28, 2010 at 6:53 PM

ObaMao is really intent on destroying our capitalistic society. To pay for increasing Medicare costs, he has planned to tax investments over and above what is taxed in earned income.
http://www.investmentnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100228/REG/302289989/1034/TAXES

He is destroying incentive, investment, and economic growth.

onlineanalyst on February 28, 2010 at 7:01 PM

Please, Nancy, Steny, Harry, Barack, et al., keep talking about health care reform and beating this dead horse until November.

They are all truly feckless politicians who are bent on driving their party into irrelavance.

Their advisors will be walking the plank when this all ends.

Kind of like the Bush strategists who did such a fine job advising McCain in 2008.

molonlabe28 on February 28, 2010 at 7:06 PM

The reconciliation Democrats need is “reconciling” themselves to the fact their health care monstrosity is DEAD.

Dr. Charles G. Waugh on February 28, 2010 at 8:00 PM

This is such a clever visual that compares our national debt to a road trip: http://www.economicvindicator.com/2010/02/national-debt-road-trip.html

onlineanalyst on February 28, 2010 at 8:29 PM

Somebody tell jimbo3.

Oh, that’s right. We already did.

notropis on February 28, 2010 at 10:14 PM

And I think that is the one point that is missed in all the analysis of the summit. Time and time again the Democrats indicated they weren’t interested in anything but a comprehensive bill. A bill that won’t contain costs, no matter what they say. And who’s the party of no?
lowandslow on February 28, 2010 at 12:58 PM

The supreme irony in seeking a comprehensive bill for health care reform is that, at the heart if the matter, those proposing such a sweeping act must comprehend how their “solution” will work and whether unintended and negative consequences may occur. By their own admissions of not having read their own bills, the Democrats eviscerated their own work. Well done, fools, well done!

ya2daup on February 28, 2010 at 11:20 PM

Both sides are idiotic.

And the public is caught in the middle.

And angry.

AnninCA on February 28, 2010 at 12:45 PM

Both sides are idiotic? That’s a pretty sweeping statement.

Occam’s razor would suggest a simpler explanation….

No, I disagree. My take, after reading months of polls, we do want reform, we want an end to industry unfair practices, and we want portability.

We also are struggling with the cost issues. Cadillac plans are wonderful. You don’t ever have to worry or even budget. However, they are out of reach.

It’s a huge adjustment.

AnninCA on February 28, 2010 at 12:53 PM

We? Really? I don’t think we want reform that much. I think most will agree some reform could be good, but this huge push for healthcare reform at all costs comes only from the side that wants socialized medicine. Most of the country would be happy with things just like they are if we could just get some tort reform to keep prices low.

In fact, there are a number of very good reforms that may not happen because the American people just aren’t that interested, such as reforming insurance so it can be bought by the individual rather than only obtained through your job, allowing insurance plans to be sold across state lines rather than limited by the states, or doing away with unnecessary mandates that are meant to please some special interest group.

Far from speaking for everybody about healthcare reform, you’re probably an example of why insurance costs so much to start with. At least, it appears like you want the insurance industry heavily regulated, and you want more mandates rather than less. This kind of government control lends itself to the very same influence of special interests that has driven up the cost of healthcare already. Rather than correct your path, you demand more of the same.

And BTW, you certainly don’t speak for me about the Iraq War.

There Goes The Neighborhood on March 1, 2010 at 12:23 AM

I think this entire reconcilation process could be great TV!

While the debate is limited to 20 hours, there is no limit to the number of ammendments.

Lets say that just for grins, some republican decides to add a line by line deletion of the entire IRS code to this bill?

It would force this congress to read every single line of the 600,000+ page tax code and vote on the removal of every single line!

BWAAAAHAAAAHAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!

Freddy on March 1, 2010 at 12:49 AM

It’s clear the Democrats do not want to address ANYthing concerning the economy or on national security. They are dithering on HCR purely to run out the clock on the recession. That was their plan, just let the recession heal itself while looking busy, and win reelection. Oops!

leftnomore on March 1, 2010 at 4:42 AM

The Feds are insolvent…This is another doomsday clock like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, Fannie, Freddie…It’s time to cut costs, period…And, keep the Feds from heaping another multi-trillion dollar program on the backs of taxpayers.

Nozzle on March 1, 2010 at 9:22 AM

Reviewing both versions of health care, I cannot find one single thing to reconcile.

As defined by the Demoncrates, reconciliation is “to make content, submissive, or acquiescent” because that is exactly the condition they require their members and supporters to be in so as anointed lords they can manipulate them into further submission.

MSGTAS on March 1, 2010 at 9:24 AM

Unless there are massive civil demonstrations, this legislation shall pass and begin the systematic dismantling of our Republic.
It’s either massive demonstrations now, or civil war later.

Cybergeezer on March 1, 2010 at 10:02 AM

Unfortunately, it would probably take a Constitutional Convention to change things, and that would open up a Pandora’s Box of horrors via amendments that would totally negate anything positive brought about via the process.

No. Even if the convention couldn’t be limited in the matters before it, and there are strong arguments that it could, any amendment coming out of such a convention still has to be passed by a super-majority of the state legislatures, just like an amendment coming out of Congress.

As for actual cost cutting reforms, health savings plans work, even for government employees.

State employees enrolled in the consumer-driven plan will save more than $8 million in 2010 compared to their coworkers in the old-fashioned preferred provider organization (PPO) alternative. In the second straight year in which we’ve been forced to skip salary increases, workers switching to the HSA are adding thousands of dollars to their take-home pay. (Even if an employee had health issues and incurred the maximum out-of-pocket expenses, he would still be hundreds of dollars ahead.) HSA customers seem highly satisfied; only 3% have opted to switch back to the PPO.

The state is saving, too. In a time of severe budgetary stress, Indiana will save at least $20 million in 2010 because of our high HSA enrollment. Mercer calculates the state’s total costs are being reduced by 11% solely due to the HSA option.

Most important, we are seeing significant changes in behavior, and consequently lower total costs. In 2009, for example, state workers with the HSA visited emergency rooms and physicians 67% less frequently than co-workers with traditional health care. They were much more likely to use generic drugs than those enrolled in the conventional plan, resulting in an average lower cost per prescription of $18. They were admitted to hospitals less than half as frequently as their colleagues. Differences in health status between the groups account for part of this disparity, but consumer decision-making is, we’ve found, also a major factor.

Overall, participants in our new plan ran up only $65 in cost for every $100 incurred by their associates under the old coverage. Are HSA participants denying themselves needed care in order to save money? The answer, as far as the state of Indiana and Mercer Consulting can find, is no. There is no evidence HSA members are more likely to defer needed care or common-sense preventive measures such as routine physicals or mammograms.

LarryD on March 1, 2010 at 11:51 AM

Speak for yourself Ann. Imagine if Bush had gotten the kind of media adoration that Obama has gotten. Not only would we have had Social Security reform, but since, in fact Bush succeeded with the surge in Iraq, the American public would have had a much higher opinion of him. …….

txmomof6 on February 28, 2010 at 2:03 PM

–Bush had something approaching a 90% approval rating around 9/11 and for a while afterwards. Didn’t help him with Social Security, Iraq, or public opinion after a while.

Jimbo3 on March 1, 2010 at 3:27 PM

In fact, there are a number of very good reforms that may not happen because the American people just aren’t that interested, such as reforming insurance so it can be bought by the individual rather than only obtained through your job, allowing insurance plans to be sold across state lines rather than limited by the states, or doing away with unnecessary mandates that are meant to please some special interest group.

Far from speaking for everybody about healthcare reform, you’re probably an example of why insurance costs so much to start with. At least, it appears like you want the insurance industry heavily regulated, and you want more mandates rather than less. This kind of government control lends itself to the very same influence of special interests that has driven up the cost of healthcare already. Rather than correct your path, you demand more of the same.

And BTW, you certainly don’t speak for me about the Iraq War.

There Goes The Neighborhood on March 1, 2010 at 12:23 AM

–You can buy individual health insurance now, but you’re silly to do so if you can get it through your employer because of the tax impact. Making changes so the after-tax cost of health insurance is the same through a company or on the individual market would require a whole bunch of changes in laws.

Jimbo3 on March 1, 2010 at 3:29 PM

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