“Dragging us to it” may not be that easy
posted at 8:10 am on October 17, 2009 by Pundette
Rep. Paul Ryan calls the Democrat plan to pass a healthcare reform bill through reconciliation “a massive abuse of power” as well as “an art form, not a science” in which Republicans “will have a lot of room to fight.” Read Robert Costa for more about the process by which the Democrats may pass a healthcare bill without a majority of public support or 60 votes in the Senate. Statist tool Bill Maher will be cheering from the sidelines as they try to drag us to it.
“Senator Reid, if he can’t reach 60 votes, will probably use this,” predicts Ryan. “Then both sides will have an argument with the Senate parliamentarian about the Byrd rule, which says that parts of a bill can be eliminated if they do not directly reduce the deficit. It also says that you can’t bring incidental things into the bill. It’s like going to court.”
Reconciliation, in a nutshell, from Wikipedia:
In order to bypass a filibuster, Senate rules allow for a process known as Reconciliation to pass budget-related matters, with a simple majority vote. Issues tangential to the budget may not be reconciled. The Parliamentarian has broad authority to decide which portions of a bill are relevant to the budget and to delete provisions he considers unrelated. The Parliamentarian’s decision may only be overridden by a 60-vote supermajority.
Bloomberg covered Mr. Frumin and the reconciliation process in August. Frumin’s predecessor, Robert Dove, commented then that,
because of the position’s power, any health-care bill “has the potential of being very badly chopped up” under reconciliation. “It will be a huge mess.”
He declined to speculate on which provisions might run afoul of the rule, saying “only one person knows the answers to your questions — his name is Alan Frumin.”
Dove said Frumin would probably drop anything the Congressional Budget Office said wouldn’t affect the budget. Even a provision that affects the budget may be deleted if Frumin concludes “the real reason that it’s there is not for its budgetary implications but for its policy implications,” Dove said.
As a hypothetical example, he said that as parliamentarian he would kill a provision barring the government from financing abortions because saving money wasn’t the reason it was put in a bill.
Lawmakers “get really ticked off” about such rulings, Dove said. “I made enemies by the score,” he said, recalling he once dropped 250 provisions from a bill.
Rep. Ryan cites a couple of examples of rulings made by the parliamentarian on reconciliation. He asserts that Republicans will have a fighting chance in this trial-like process:
“Using the tort-reform precedent from our own experience a few years ago, Republicans will be able to argue that a lot of the junk the Democrats want can’t go in the bill,” says Ryan. “That’s where Republican leaders like Senator Jon Kyl will be able to make some major arguments against the use of reconciliation.
Sen. Coburn has also been researching in preparation for a reconciliation battle.
For more background on Mr. Frumin and reconciliation see this August post from Newsweek’s Gaggle blog and this recent profile by Gail Russell Chaddock for the Christian Science Monitor. Some excerpts from the latter:
“He’s a man who plays his cards very close to his vest, because he has to. Everyone is looking over his shoulder,” says Senate historian Donald Ritchie. “He’s very serious about what he does, and he’s scrupulously neutral.”
“Your guess is as good as mine what the parliamentarian will say. He is a god,” says R. Bruce Josten, top lobbyist for the US Chamber of Commerce.
“These can be very subjective calls. When the parliamentarian is called up to make them occasionally or rarely, the Senate accepts it. But several times a day, and it could really affect the credibility of the parliamentarian and hurt the office,” says Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) of Tennessee, who chairs the Senate Republican Conference. “To thrust him into the healthcare bill so he’s virtually writing the bill is unprecedented and unacceptable,” Senator Alexander adds.
“I was always a little bit concerned exactly who I worked for,” says [former Parliamentarian] Dove in a Monitor interview. “You do things in the name of the president of the Senate, who is the vice president of the United States. You conceive of yourself as working for the Senate – and Alan does. Not the majority party, but the Senate.”
“You can never feed anyone information; you can never suggest questions that ought to be asked. You would destroy yourself quite quickly if you did,” Dove says. “All you can do is answer questions that are asked of you.”
Then he adds, “I’m so glad I’m not doing what Alan is doing right now. But he will do it well.”
See Political Hotsheet on the preparations made by the Dem’s to allow for an abuse of the process to pass their unpopular bill.
h/t: Michelle Malkin