Does Obama have to sign Senate bill into law before reconciliation can happen?

posted at 3:10 pm on March 10, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Call this the Blind Faith conundrum in the Democratic strategy to pass ObamaCare.  In order to get the House to sign off on the Senate version of the bill, they have to trust that the Senate will actually pass a parallel series of fixes through reconciliation.  Some House Democrats don’t trust the Senate to act or Obama to push the issue once he has a bill he can sign into law, which has led the House to plan a hostage strategy — passing the bill but holding it until the Senate completes the reconciliation process.  However, parliamentarians in both chambers of Congress have to decide whether the Senate can actually amend a law that hasn’t been signed yet through that budget process, and the signs don’t look good (via the Boss Emeritus):

The White House and Democratic Congressional leaders said Tuesday that they were bracing for a key procedural ruling that could complicate their effort to approve major health care legislation, by requiring President Obama to sign the bill into law before Congress could revise it through an expedited budget process.

An official determination on the matter could come within days from the House and Senate parliamentarians, and could present yet another hurdle for Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders as they try to lock in support from skittish lawmakers in the House. …

Democratic leaders had been contemplating an intricate legislative two-step, by which the House would approve the original Senate health care measure and both chambers would adopt a package of changes in a budget reconciliation bill. Both measures would then be sent to Mr. Obama for his signature.

Some officials said House leaders were holding out hope for a favorable ruling by the parliamentarians that would allow them to proceed as planned — or to circumvent the problem.

But Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Budget Committee, said the reconciliation instructions in last year’s budget resolution seemed to require that Mr. Obama sign the Senate bill into law before it could be changed.

“It’s very hard to see how you draft, and hard to see how you score, a reconciliation bill to another bill that has not yet been passed and become law,” Mr. Conrad said. “I just advise you go read the reconciliation instructions and see if you think it has been met if it doesn’t become law.”

The entire strategy of reconciliation could collapse on this point — if House Democrats don’t trust Obama to pursue the parallel bill after House passage of the Senate bill.  The progressive caucus is only going along with this strategy on the promise to change the Cadillac tax provisions of the Senate bill to exempt unions, who strongly objected to the new tax.  Pelosi is also trying to woo moderates by promising another parallel bill on abortion, although it doesn’t appear that she’s making much headway with that promise.

That’s not the only group that will have a problem with this.  The White House can’t afford two fights over ObamaCare this year.  An adverse ruling by parliamentarians would mean that Obama has to cross two finish lines this year.  How much motivation would Obama have in wading back into the ObamaCare fight a second time to rescue the unions from the Cadillac tax, and possibly to ban federal funding for abortion after the Senate removed such a ban in December?  My guess is that figure would approach zero, even with the unions leaning on him.

If nothing else, this shows just how unprecedented this effort by Democrats is.  If the parliamentarians issue opinions that block it, what next?

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Trust in Me from the Jungle Book.

Oink on March 10, 2010 at 4:29 PM

It’s not hyperbole to state that the Democrat party has a deep seated disdain for democracy.

gwelf on March 10, 2010 at 4:27 PM

No. Democrats want a Democracy. It’s the Constitution and the concept of a Republic that they hate.

The Precedent is different from Democrats, though. He just wants to exact revenge on the US and break our nation.

neurosculptor on March 10, 2010 at 4:30 PM

Trust in me! Oh, trust in me!!! Cue up the image of the snake in Jungle Book and his kaleidescope eyes.

Oink on March 10, 2010 at 4:25 PM

Like This?

dhunter on March 10, 2010 at 4:32 PM

dhunter on March 10, 2010 at 4:32 PM


Oink on March 10, 2010 at 4:38 PM

This trust, as referred to so passingly by Ed Morrissey (not suggesting he takes it lightly!), is the key to America, its backbone and soul.

I’m a 1st generation American; dad came over because his country had some “uninvited guests” in late 1939….

Unlike my sister (avowed brain-dead “liberal”!), I’ve always had one foot one either continent. Moved over there 2001-2007 to see what it was all about.

No. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That is not (or, at least, no longer) a model for America.
The Enlightenment? No argument. Fine.

But, on those multitude of details we call “daily modern life”, trust is anathema to the lifeblood of Europe’s citizens.

Don’t judge it by Greece.
Germany, the curmudgeon, has refined “trust’s” counterpoint to a tee:

It’s called VERARSCHUNG.
Generally put: a public display or act of contempt for a fellow citizen, particularly mixed with the desire/situation for suffering/misery of said fellow citizen (think: a continuous spiral downward).

Simply pathological.

Trust is a fundamental part of the responsibility and accountability which we merely accept (what a friggin’ luxury, seen from the view of the rest of the world!) in America.

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone…”

Lockstein13 on March 10, 2010 at 4:39 PM

If the parliamentarians issue opinions that block it, what next?

Simple: replace them for ones who will rule in their favor. DUH! They are doing it in the Budget commitee.

mechkiller_k on March 10, 2010 at 4:39 PM

More on the Blatantly Unconstitutionally, Recklessly Illegal Slaughter “Rule:” Citizens Would Have Standing to Challenge
Leon H. Wolf at RedState writes:

Having determined that they lack the votes in the House to pass the Senate bills as-is, House Democrats are attempting one of the most breathtakingly unconstitutional power grabs ever witnessed – a maneuver to deem the Senate bill ALREADY PASSED by the House by rule, despite the fact that it clearly has not. Now, as we have constantly reminded our ahistorical liberal friends who have already forgotten all of 2002-2006, the filibuster is constitutional because it is a Senate rule of debate, which is expressly authorized by Article I’s delegation of power to each house of Congress to set its own rules of debate. Apparently, some Democrats can’t seem to tell the difference between a rule of debate and just declaring by rule that the House has passed a bill that they have not, when the Constitution itself expressly states that “in all [] Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays[.]” What Slaughter and Pelosi here are attempting here is a blatant violation of the principles of bicameralism and presentment.
And unlike other Unconstitutional things Congress does, there’s caselaw here suggesting pretty clearly that when Congress attempts to pass a law in the absence of proper bicameralism and presentment, a person negatively affected by Congress’s action (e.g., a person required to pay a fine for not having health insurance) has standing to challenge the law’s validity in the Courts. This farce is illegal and unconstitutional on its face, and someone has to be advising the Democrats in the House of this fact.

AOSHQ. It’s very rare any citizen can challenge a bill, but apparently this could be one time.

Wethal on March 10, 2010 at 4:41 PM

If the parliamentarians issue opinions that block it, what next?

Simple: replace them for ones who will rule in their favor. DUH! They are doing it in the Budget commitee.

mechkiller_k on March 10, 2010 at 4:39 PM

And Biden can overrule them.

darwin-t on March 10, 2010 at 4:42 PM

Robert Byrd in 1994. Clinton can’t used reconciliation to pass healthcare reform.

Wethal on March 10, 2010 at 4:43 PM

I believe Byrd has said in the last week or two that he’s just fine with passing healthcare reform by reconcilitation today, however.

Midas on March 10, 2010 at 4:45 PM

AOSHQ. It’s very rare any citizen can challenge a bill, but apparently this could be one time.

Wethal on March 10, 2010 at 4:41 PM

It will be challenged.

Oink on March 10, 2010 at 4:46 PM

Democracy by Slaughter [Daniel Foster]

The sense around here for the last week or so has been that “only the House vote matters” in deciding the fate of Obamacare. But what if the Democrats can pass the bill with no House vote at all?

Astoundingly, House Democrats appear to be preparing to do just that:

House Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter is prepping to help usher the healthcare overhaul through the House and potentially avoid a direct vote on the Senate overhaul bill, the chairwoman said Tuesday.

Slaughter is weighing preparing a rule that would consider the Senate bill passed once the House approves a corrections bill that would make changes to the Senate version.

Slaughter has not taken the plan to Speaker Pelosi as Democrats await CBO scores on the corrections bill. “Once the CBO gives us the score we’ll spring right on it,” she said. . . .

House members are concerned the Senate could fail to approve the corrections bill, making them nervous about passing the Senate bill with its much-maligned sweetheart deals for certain states.
“We’re well beyond that,” Pelosi said Tuesday, though she did not clarify.

That the Democrats could take this extraordinary step to avoid passing the Senate bill tells you that they have zero trust in the Senate to pass reconciliation “fixes,” and zero trust in the president not to sign the Senate bill should it reach his desk and a reconciliation effort collapse. But most crucially, it gives the lie — in a big, big way — to the Democratic narrative that health-care reform should and will be finished via simple “majority rule,” and not bound up in the arcane rules of the United States Senate.

Akzed on March 10, 2010 at 4:48 PM

Ooops… sorry, posted in wrong thread.

Akzed on March 10, 2010 at 4:50 PM

If the parliamentarians issue opinions that block it, what next?

I have an idea, how about Obama resigns and emigrates, never to return?

And the beauty of it is, that idea can be used for pretty much any question on the White House docket and it will work out better than the status quo.

NoDonkey on March 10, 2010 at 4:59 PM

Can the President sign the Senate bill and veto the reconciliation bill?

slp on March 10, 2010 at 5:41 PM

If the parliamentarians issue opinions that block it, what next?

Hoping that adherence to some Byzantine Congressional rules will save us from socialized medicine is a fool’s bet.

The legislation may ultimately be defeated, but not by anything like this.

JDPerren on March 10, 2010 at 5:52 PM


Cybergeezer on March 10, 2010 at 6:40 PM

How ever this turns out… all I can say is ….

THANK GAWD 4 da INTERNET !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

donabernathy on March 10, 2010 at 6:48 PM

Has Reid pulled a fast one?

Gohawgs on March 11, 2010 at 12:40 AM

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