Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Will "Reconciliation" finally deliver Obamacare? Hitler, Hennessey and Hoyer opine. 

The Democrats now say they are going to make a big push to get Obamacare enacted through Congress via "reconciliation". To pass a bill via reconciliation instead of normal legislative rules requires only 50 votes in Senate (plus a vice presidential tie-breaker), instead of the normal filibuster-proof 60. So it ought to be easy, right?

Some on the left are now congratulating themselves that it is as good as done. "The remaining obstacles are puny". All the Democrats have to do is "walk through the door that's open to them".

Although, if reconciliation is so easy, a logical question to ask is: why did the Democrats so insist on doing things entirely the hard way until now? And why did Barney Frank say that if they lost the 60th vote Obamacare would be "dead". Do professional pols not know what's "easy" from what's "hard"?

How reconciliation works (via The New Republic, a pro-reform site):
the problems with reconciliation are legion...

of particular importance to a massive and open-ended bill like health care, the Senate’s PAYGO rule requires 60 votes for any provision that would increase the deficit by more than $5 billion in any ten-year period going all the way out to the year 2059. (You read that correctly: 2059.)...

in the Senate the authors of the Budget Act who drafted this provision back in 1974 neglected to limit the number of amendments that can be offered. This leads to perhaps the Senate’s most stupefying activity (in a chamber chock full of stupefying activity)--"vote-a-rama." ... senators can still offer an unlimited number of amendments ... And by "unlimited," I mean it is never less than dozens but could easily stretch into the hundreds...

reconciliation would give the minority party in the Senate a chance to force a separate roll call vote on every line of the bill...


The requirement that every single provision in a reconciliation bill have budgetary impact means that the bill cannot address regulatory issues, consumer protection issues, or items like abortion.

The open-ended limitations on deficit increases sharply curtail any additional spending in the bill and mean that most changes made by reconciliation that affect spending and revenues must expire in ten years.

And the requirement that congressional committees hold a new two-stage markup process, combined with the usual (if time-limited) floor consideration and conference processes, means that using reconciliation would occupy all of Congress’s attention [for months]..."
That's just excerpts, read the whole thing.

Plus add the basic political fact that the whole attempt is plainly dishonest, as reconciliation explicitly by law is for budget-resolution matters, not policy matters .... a fact the Republicans will be pounding on every single day to an electorate that is already sick of Louisiana Purchases and Cornhusker Kickbacks, and majority-against the bill -- both the bill itself and Obama's direction if it.

As Hitler said to this idea a month ago: "Bull**it! If we could do reconciliation we'd have DONE it!"

Referring to a perhaps more reputable source, Keith Hennessey (former Assistant to the President for Economic Policy):

For now I continue to believe there’s a 90% chance of no law....

It is possible that we are witnessing uncoordinated Democratic leaders each pursuing their own exit strategy in anticipation of legislative failure:

•The President proposes a “compromise” and blames Republicans for being unreasonable and unconstructive. Legislative failure is the Republicans’ fault, not the President’s.

•Speaker Pelosi continues to press for a two bill strategy in which the House and Senate will pass a new reconciliation bill. If the Senate cannot or will not do so, legislative failure is the Senate’s fault, not the House’s or Speaker Pelosi’s.

•Supported by outside liberals, Leader Reid points out that the House could just take up and pass the Senate-passed bill. Legislative failure is therefore not his fault or the Senate’s.

Each of these strategies is consistent with telling your allies that you’re continuing to push forward, right up until the moment you give up and blame someone else.

... read the whole thing.

From the Democratic House leadership, enthusiasm already underwhelming:

Hoyer: Comprehensive health bill may be no go
Well, if Hitler, Hennessey and Hoyer are right, then in a couple of months the partisans on the left are going to be ramping it up from angry to screaming mad, after they are teased, led on, and frustrated all over again.

And with Obama already losing the center en masse (Scott Brown carried the independents in Massachussetts by more than 50 points) that could set up an interesting November.