The distrust between House and Senate Democrats has produced a new innovation in the strategy to produce a health-care reform bill. Worried that the White House has plans to simply sign the Senate bill and skip reconciliation that would address concerns from the lower chamber, Democrats now want to consider passing the Senate bill but keeping it in hand to force the Senate to act on reconciliation first. Jon Ward reports for the Daily Caller that this may be within parliamentary procedure:
Chances for a health-care bill grew dimmer on Thursday, by most indications, but House Democrats may have found a way to force the Senate to work with them that would remove a key roadblock to passing the reform desired by President Obama.
Call it a “hold-plus-reconciliation” strategy.
The House could pass the Senate bill as is, then hold it in their chamber instead of sending it to the president so he could sign it into law. That bill, passed but not out of the House’s hands, would be the leverage to bring the Senate to the table.
Many House Democrats who dislike the Senate bill fear that the upper chamber would pay lip service to making improvements through reconciliation, only to back away from promises after the House passed the Senate bill.
“We don’t trust the Senate to do anything they say they’re going to do,” Rep. Anthony Weiner, New York Democrat, told The Daily Caller.
In other words, they want to hold the bill hostage to get reconciliation accomplished in parallel. It’s a novel approach, but one that exposes a deep mistrust between the two chambers. If House Democrats can’t trust their Senate colleagues, should we trust either group?
Can this work? In Article I Section 7, the US Constitution requires that Presidents must veto bills within ten days of Congress presenting them in order to keep them from becoming law. After ten days, a bill becomes law with or without a presidential signature, unless Congress goes out of session in that period, in which case a failure to sign the bill would act as a veto. It was this clause that kept Presidents from traveling abroad while Congress was in session before the airplane. However, there is no definition of a time frame for presenting the bill to the White House, so arguably Nancy Pelosi could hold the bill until the end of the current session — in December.
This becomes an interesting question for the Senate parliamentarian, however. Can the Senate amend a law that doesn’t exist, with or without reconciliation? For that matter, can the House? Ward’s source believes that both can:
The question is whether Congress can work on legislation that changes a bill that has not yet been signed into law.
While Democrats did not appear to have reached a conclusion on Thursday, parlimentarian experts on the House Republican side with decades of experience told The Daily Caller that it could be done.
Allahpundit and I have both considered the idea of a last-minute betrayal of House progressives by Barack Obama to be rather unlikely. It seems that House progressives don’t hold their colleagues and their President in the same regard. In reaction, they’re reaching far down into their bag of tricks to get a deeply unpopular bill passed in this session — for which voters will hold them in even lower regard at the midterms.