All 41 GOP senators sign letter to Reid vowing to uphold "Byrd rule" in reconciliation

Yes, even the wonder twins from Maine and the blogosphere’s favorite Massachusetts RINO. The Byrd rule, of course, is the rule that says reconciliation can only be used for budgetary provisions. If you read the Pelosi post earlier, you already know who this letter is aimed at. Hint: Not Reid.

The GOPers’ pledge amounts to a threat to block any changes sought by Senate Democrats on issues like abortion or immigration, or perhaps the reintroduction of the public option to the healthcare bill.

“We wish to inform you that we will oppose efforts to waive the so-called Byrd Rule during Senate consideration of any reconciliation bill concerning health reform,” the senators wrote. “As it takes 60 votes to waive the Byrd Rule, we can ensure that any provision that trips the Byrd Rule will be stripped from the bill, which will require that the bill be sent back to the House for further consideration and additional votes.”

The letter has the effect of putting Reid and Democrats on notice that any attempt to go beyond the scope of budget reconciliation rules will be met with fierce GOP opposition.

Specifically, it has the effect of putting Stupak and wavering House Democrats on notice that if they pass the hated Reid bill on the assumption that reconciliation will fix it later, they’re in for a major disappointment — and not necessarily because of Republicans. Remember, pro-choice Dems could raise a point of order too to strip out any pro-life language; so long as they have 41 votes on their side, they can block any attempt to reinsert it. Which means Stupak had better be awfully careful about voting for the Reid bill, n’est-ce pas?

I’m trying to figure out if Biden would have the authority to shoot down points of order raised by Republicans without putting them to a vote. Here’s what I think is the relevant Senate rule:

1. A question of order may be raised at any stage of the proceedings, except when the Senate is voting or ascertaining the presence of a quorum, and, unless submitted to the Senate, shall be decided by the Presiding Officer without debate, subject to an appeal to the Senate. When an appeal is taken, any subsequent question of order which may arise before the decision of such appeal shall be decided by the Presiding Officer without debate; and every appeal therefrom shall be decided at once, and without debate; and any appeal may be laid on the table without prejudice to the pending proposition, and thereupon shall be held as affirming the decision of the Presiding Officer.

2. The Presiding Officer may submit any question of order for the decision of the Senate.

Section two says Biden can, if he wishes, ask the Senate to decide a point of order by voting on it. Fair enough, but what about if Biden rules on a point of order himself? Does the appeal provision mean the GOP can demand that his ruling be put to the entire Senate for a vote or is it up to Biden to decide if the Senate should consider the appeal? In other words, is it an appeal by right or a discretionary appeal? If the latter, then it ain’t much. Anyone know this answer for certain?