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I don’t quite get the rules for reconciliation, but essentially what Democrats are proposing is to avoid a filibuster by passing some of the major provisions of health care reform through a filibuster-proof procedure (“reconciliation”) set up to deal with budget issues. But in order for the bill to past procedural muster, it must be crafted to avoid adding to the deficit.
Each year, Congress passes a budget, and sometimes it has to pass a separate bill to raise or reroute funds in order to meet the budget’s demands. That’s the reconciliation bill–and it’s so important that Senate rules exempt it from a filibuster. But they also prevent it from being a vessel for any old provision that the majority party wants enacted. The specifics of these limits (enshrined in the so-called Byrd rule) are complex, but the overarching rule of thumb is that provisions passed through this process must have a significant budgetary component (i.e. involve the moving around of federal money) and that the legislation should not, in the long run, increase the federal deficit. (A recent historical example: the Bush tax cuts were passed via the reconciliation process. They survived the Byrd rule because they had a huge budgetary impact, but because they vastly increased the federal deficit, they sunsetted, and had to be renewed after five years.)
Ironically, given the more aggressive the price controls, rate setting, and rationing, the more likely the system will be in the black come 2014 to avoid sunsetting, and more to the immediate point, the less likely the Republicans could prevail in any lawsuit for violation of process. Basically, the more liberal, the more likely it will be procedurally successful. This puts some of the conservative Democrats in a bind because they thought they would be getting a more lukewarm public option modeled after private insurance. So will they renege on their pledges to vote for a public option? Will they pressure their Republican colleagues to forgo the objections which would force a more robust option? And actually, the Republicans may be caught in their own irony in that the harder they push the more liberal the eventual reform may be.
As the TPM article concludes: “the path of least political resistance is beset by procedural obstacles; and the path of least procedural resistance is beset by political ones.”
Is there a parliamentary expert out there who could generate a road map for us?
Meanwhile, a Republican icon suggests that health care reform opponents slit their wrists to become blood brothers.
Addendum: USA Today reports that thousands of Americans are moving to Mexico for health care.
Add Senator Tom Udall to the Democrats coming around to the public option. 49?
Second addendum: Reform opponent Maria Baritiromo asks 44-year-old Anthony Wiener if Medicare is so good why isn’t he on it? The exchange is revealing not simply because she’s clueless, but because her assumption that Wiener could opt into MediCare basically has her believing that we already have a public option. We don’t of course.