I suspect a lot of people don’t understand how this “Reconciliation” process works. I’m not an expert on it, but I think I have a basic understanding. And if I do understand it, it creates a very interesting scenario for passing Health
Care Insurance Reform. Basically it’s not one bill, this is a two-bill process, where before you can reconcile anything, you have to have passed a bill to reconcile first.
Reconciliation, by rule, can only amend an existing bill on provisions having to do with spending or taxes. There is a slight hedge here in that a provision that is a necessary condition of another provision dealing with spending or taxes can be amended, and I think you’ll see the Democrats trying to use that to deal with some of the more contentious parts of the bill (like the Stupak amendment). The problem is that if they do that then Republicans can execute parliamentary procedures in the Senate that would force Harry Reid to call for a vote that requires 60 “ayes” to pass that provision. Or, if Republicans want to push the reconciliation rules as far as possible, they can effectively “filibuster” the bill by proposing their own amendments endlessly until the time runs out on debate for the reconciled bill.
This is very interesting from a pure Civics lesson perspective. I doubt that most people have any real idea of what sort of pressure this puts on both the House and the Senate.
For the House, Nancy Pelosi has to wrangle 217 votes to pass the Senate bill, a bill that up until now has not had close to 217 votes in the House. Pelosi’s mission here is to convince recalcitrant democrats that the Senate bill would not become the final bill so their vote will not be “binding”. But for that to convince House members, they will have to believe that the SECOND bill will survive reconciliation, or else their vote will put into law something they have claimed to oppose on principle.
Even then she’ll need to convince 217 members of the house to vote on the reconciled bill AFTER it goes through the Senate sausage-making factory, and there is no guarantee of that either.
Reid only has to get the votes to pass one bill, but it’s the reconciliation version of the bill and this is pushing reconciliation as a legislative process farther than its ever been pushed before. Nobody knows if it will break or not.
Perhaps the worst result here would be that Bill #1 (the current Senate version of the bill) gets passed and signed into law, and then the reconciliation effort would fail, leaving the current Senate version of the bill as the Law. I have no doubt that Obama and Reid are completely fine with this, but if they telegraph that too loudly, it will signal to the House that Bill #2 (the reconciliation bill) is nothing but Washington Kabuki theater and that those who are hornswoggled into voting for Bill #1 in the House will be sacrificed in the November elections when Bill #2 dies in the Senate.
Very interesting situation.
Don’t discount the frustration and anger that this will build up in the House with Nancy Pelosi and her lieutenants who feel they have already delivered the goods here and are being thrown under the bus to save Obama’s Presidency.
From a game theory perspective this whole thing is fascinating, but from a risk to the future of the nation perspective this whole thing is terrifying.