Friday, January 22, 2010

We Don't Need No Stinking Reconciliation

In the aftermath of the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts, the Democrats are now stuck with a less-than supermajority in the Senate, and an angry left wing in the House. As of this writing, the only way the Obamists could jam health care through is to use the process called "reconciliation." Let's take a look at how it would work, and whether it's even a realistic possibility.

Barack Obama has shown next to no leadership for his beloved socialized medicine scheme. As a result, he is taking a lot of heat from his own party as well as plenty of pointed criticism from the Republicans. He didn't do anything more than make general statements about health care for everyone, and the occasional lie about not increasing taxes to fund the "free" socialized program. He has no policy, and not a clue as to how to slip government control past the public, so he has left it to his lieutenants in the administration. They failed. That leaves only the diehards in the Democratic Party to find a way to get a health care package through the Congress and to the president's desk for signature before the trainloads of tar and feathers arrive in Washington, D.C.

If the House rejects the Senate version, the game is over. The final version sent to the president cannot simply be put together by the star chamber members of the two houses and sent for signature after a simple majority vote in Congress. Both House and Senate versions contain budgetary implications, and any modification requires a supermajority in the Senate for approval. That will not happen now. The only thing left is for the House to accept the Senate version, exactly as currently written, without any modification, or a simple majority is not enough for passage.

Says lefty Democrat writer Jeff Davis: "Politically, this is difficult, as it means swallowing all the ugly compromises in the Senate bill whole in hopes of a possible (but not guaranteed) fix down the road. House members would have to go on record in favor of the Cornhusker Kickback, the Senate Cadillac Tax, and all the rest (to which I would add the Louisiana Purchase)."

Another compromise unacceptable to the left in the House is the de-funding of abortions contained in the Senate version, and since that's a budgetary matter, it cannot be reconciled in conference since it would require a change in the Senate version. If they can "fix" that at all, it would have to be done after the bill became law. Conference "fixing" would have to come after passage, not before. Passage with an amended conference reconciliation contained in it before passage would require a 60 vote supermajority in the Senate.

So how might this scheme to pass health care without public acceptance actually be possible? Families USA spokesman Ron Pollack has suggested one way. Remember, the original plan when the Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate was "don't worry, we'll fix it in conference." Well, here's the plan to make that work. First, the House and the Senate agree to vote on an amended conference bill. That would be no easy task, since it would have to bring along 60 Senators, some of whom have already expressed dismay over the more execrable provisions of the current Senate bill. But meanwhile, the two houses could vote on the unamended reconciliation bill that would pass the bill on to the president as is with the Senate version being the only version, now approved by the House. Then send both bills to the president for signature.

That would save face for the leftists in the House, and perhaps provide an opportunity for liberal Democrats and RINOs to find a way to reconcile the two bills in a way acceptable to the crypto-socialists (more bribes, more parliamentary maneuvers). Here's where the trick works. The two bills would then be sent to the president for signature. It doesn't matter which order the bills are passed in, what matters is which order the president signs them. If the president signs the current conference-reconciled Senate version first, then signs the second bill, the latter immediately modifies the former, the Democrats get their less-than-desired bill followed by a law that amends the Senate bill. Theoretically, neither vote would require a supermajority in the Senate.

This would be a torturous route, would stall the final process, and still is likely to run afoul of the "budget" provisions requiring a supermajority vote. Still, the Democrats are desperate. Obama has staked his reputation, if not his efforts, on passing a health care bill. Part of the plan is to keep the Republicans busy proposing new amendments and fighting Democrat additions and deletions until they give up out of pure exhaustion. It also provides extra "cover" time for the Democrats to do more back-room horse-trading with shaky blue dogs and questionable Republicans.

The Democrats in the Senate still have the majority votes necessary to limit debate on the conference-reconciled House/Senate version to 20 hours, after which time unlimited amendments may be offered, but no debate is allowed, and there must be an immediate up or down vote. Insiders refer to this process as "vote-a-rama." If the Democrats can weasel-word the provisions so as not to violate the Budget Act or the Byrd Rule requiring that all amendments be "germane to the bill," it is quite possibly the only way the Democrats could get their health care bill and an amended version of it slipped past the public before they could be stopped. Sadly, the Budget Act doesn't make provisions for stopping monetary amendments which are merely part of the back-and-forth between House and Senate conference committees.

OK, that's depressing. But it isn't the end of the discussion. The Republicans in the Senate could force a separate roll-call vote on every changed line of the stealth reconciliation bill. The rule that every provision in a reconciliation bill have budgetary impact would mean that the Democrats cannot address regulatory issues, consumer protection issues, or even abortion without first successfully addressing the financial impact. Furthermore, the current rules and statutes limit a marked-up conference reconciliation bill to a period of ten years, and much of Obama's provisions wouldn't kick in until about that time or shortly thereafter, leaving them completely vulnerable to further attack by future Congresses. If this bizarre reconciliation path were to be followed, it would very likely be both a pyrrhic and short-lived victory.

Given the devastating defeat handed to the Democrats in Massachusetts, the questionable legality of a two-house reconciliation followup bill, and the unpopularity of the whole government health care scheme, it seems highly unlikely that any member of Congress in a swing district or swing-state that isn't otherwise totally dominated by leftist politics (like my own district in San Francisco) would be foolish enough to follow this path. Prior to the Massachusetts election, this crazy scheme had a small chance of success, since it relied on a simple majority vote. The Democrats realized that even before the Massachusetts election, there was already such a backlash to the overall scheme that they might lose two or three votes in the Senate and many more in the House, leaving the only salvation to a majority Senate vote if the House rejected the Senate bill in toto. The victory in Massachusetts has probably rendered an already questionable scheme into a practical impossibility.

Follow-Up Note: On Thursday morning, my local Marxist and Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, announced that she didn't have the votes to produce an agreement to accept the Senate version of health care as is. In the spirit of "it ain't over 'til it's over," I am not abandoning the position discussed in this post until I'm sure that she didn't have a botox-to-the-brain attack. What a radical Democrat says in the morning can change 180 degrees by the following afternoon. I will believe that she has abandoned her scheme when I hear the official public announcement from her, Harry Reid, and the administration. At that point I will believe that all plans to push this socialist scheme through without public support have actually been terminated.

30 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

Thanks for a very good and informative post, Hawk. From everything I see though, enough Dems in both House and Senate see the handwriting on the wall and are afraid to force something through this way. More likely, they will scale back another bill and we will have to go through the process again keeping ever vivilant against sneaky backdoor universal single payor.

StanH said...

I still maintain the Democrats will do something to save their Messiah in regard to healthcare or suicide pact as it’s known in flyover country. But as you’ve spelled out in your article it will be a bitter pill indeed, and will hasten the demise of the liberal Democrat…YEAH!!!

Writer X said...

In a desperate attempt to save this thing, Nancy has probably resorted to seances and potions. I think the Republicans should use the opportunity to get on the forefront and propose bills that would actually help rising insurance costs, without destroying health care. Of course, it would help if both parties could get back on board and help fix the economy (read: tax cuts). But that might just be a pipe dream.

BevfromNYC said...

Once again, great article. I have the impression that Nancy, Harry, and Barry are boxed in now. Whichever way they turn, they are in trouble. If they try to do anything less than a bipartisan bill, they will so overplay their hand, they certainly will lose what little face they have left (no Nancy pun intended) And we have every citizen in this country who stood up to them to thank. All those who wrote their representatives, went to "town-hall" meeting and badgered them, who went to Tea Party rallies, and wrote and participated on blogs and educated themselves on the issues are responsible. And this genie can never go back into its bottle. We must participate. I have faith in “We The People” that we will continue. This is why tyrannical leaders and governments fear the free flow of information and an educated and informed population ...Truth and Light Avert Tyranny!

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Excellent article! Thanks for explaining the process -- no one else in the media seems to be capable of explaining this.

This sounds like the Frankenstein's monster of passing a law. Of course, that would fit quite well with a party led by the Boxtox Queen and the Invisible Man.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, I love the image of Pelosi holding a seance to get this bill passed! LOL!

Writer X said...

Andrew, she's become so pathetically desperate, I wouldn't doubt if she tried it!

Tam said...

I agree with Bev that the free flow of information/educated public is a killer for these would-be tyrants. No wonder they want to control the internet. I maintain faith in "We the People" especially since Tuesday. (Still walking a little lighter on my toes...) A completely unrelated side note, I am going to see my husband take his oath of allegiance and become a citizen today. One more conservative voice in the 2010 election!

LawHawkSF said...

Tennessee: Thanks for the kudo. Things are happening so fast in DC in the wake of the Brown victory that "current events" articles on Congress are almost obsolete before we write them. And that's a good thing.

BevfromNYC said...

Tam, my congrats to your husband! I saw my sister-in-law sworn in a few years ago. It was a breath taking moment.

LawHawkSF said...

StanH: Well said. We're in a fight to the finish on health care, and I don't put anything past the Democrats who are striking out in desperation. I keep waiting for the liberal press to do an editorial cartoon with their messiah nailed to a cross inscribed with "health care."

LawHawkSF said...

WriterX: I'm hoping that the Republicans will use this once-in-a-decade opportunity to turn their negative image as "nay-sayers" around by very publicly announcing plans that actually do fix some of the major holes in the health care system. Until now, the genuine proposals to do anything positive (like portability, borderless insurance coverage, interstate competition, tort reform, insurance pools and cheap catastrophic care coverage) have been drowned out by the parliamentary maneuvering.

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: All true. Overnight, we've put the Democrats in the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" seat. I'm going to love watching them squirm. The groundswell of public participation was the key factor. Now it's up to the Republicans and the insiders (like the RSC I discussed in an earlier post) to get into high gear and become the "can do" party again. We have the opportunity to kill the socialist political monster, so this is no time to go weak-kneed.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: Parliamentary maneuvers to thwart the public will are not the easiest thing to explain in a way that's comprehensible to normal people. The best way to describe the process is "byzantine." I got a good taste of the process when I was a planning commissioner in Ventura County in Southern California having to get regional planning decisions put together in such a way as to avoid the politicization that could result if the legislature in Sacramento saw an opportunity to get political points out the proposals. We did it honestly, but I have to admit that we were also sneaky on more than one occasion. LOL

LawHawkSF said...

WriterX and Andrew: I'm working hard to get the image of San Fran Nan standing over a boiling cauldron, stirring up a witch's brew out of my mind. Thanks, you two.

LawHawkSF said...

Tam: Congratulations to your husband and you! As a native-born American I will never be able to share the joy and excitement that a brand-new citizen must feel when joining the fellowship of the greatest nation on earth. Please welcome him into the family on our behalf.

BevfromNYC said...

Actually LawHawk, I see a cartoon of the Three Witches in MacBeth - Harry, Barry, and Nan!

"Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble..."

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: Thanks for reinforcing the image I was trying to get out of my head. LOL

BevfromNYC said...

Sorry, LawHawk! How about Scarecrow, Tinman, and Cowardly Lion?

"Independents, and Tea Partiers, and Republicans, oh, my!"

tee-hee-hee...

LawHawkSF said...

In keeping with their perfect record of dirty-dealings, the Democrats are now trying to figure out how to kill the Senate filibuster rules. Aside from the fact that it clearly violates the current mood of the people and over two hundred years of precedent, and scares the hell out of the fence-sitters and poll-watchers in the Senate, such a move would mean that future generations of Americans would not understand what is going on in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. At long last, have they no decency?

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: That's a much more pleasant image. It would be complete with Pelosi as Dorothy, and Toto biting her viciously on the ankles.

BevfromNYC said...

I find it so interesting that when the Democrats don't like the outcome, they change the rules. This is what really screwed them in Massachusetts too.

As I recall, they LOVED the filibuster rules when they weren't the majority!

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: They love changing the rules, and worse, they try doing it in the middle of the game when the score is going against them. Talk about "tin-eared." After getting shot, these fools stand up, extend their arms out wide, and say "shoot me again, because I'm not going to give up no matter how many times you shoot me."

BevfromNYC said...

LawHawk, I think this is another factor in Mass. route on Tuesday. The Democrats out-maneuvered themselves by changing the senator appointment rules back and forth in their state legislature. They got cocky thinking that it really was the "Kennedy seat" and they the people didn't need to vote.

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: The whole Massachusetts Democrat debacle is an example of a word they love to use: karma. In fact, it happened so fast that maybe Lennon's expression is better: instant karma.

patti said...

wow. amazing at what could be done, but the question is who will chance it given the now recognized dead-set against it climate of americans to be force-fed a healthcare bill(before it was all in our heads).

given the election, and our wrath played out, my money is on dems proceeding carefully, but there is always the threat of them having a moment of idiocy. so that puts me in your camp of i ain't convinced yet.

thanks for the great post.

LawHawkSF said...

Patti: I guess where I'm coming from is that no idiocy is beyond the Democrats right now. Reconciliation, or revised Senate filibuster rules would be suicidal for them, and they don't seem to understand they have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. Let's wait to see if the fat lady sings.

Patti said...

link'd!

Patti said...

law: i totally understood you, brother. they are kinda like trolls, pooping all over themselves no matter the consequence...

LawHawkSF said...

Patti: Thanks a million for the link. I've been so busy responding to the comments on the Abu-Jamal post that I haven't gotten over to your site yet today. I will do that shortly.

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