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Greg Sargent of The Plum Line does some great follow-up on Kent Conrad (D-ND):

In an interview with me just now, Senator Kent Conrad tore into the media for repeatedly botching its reporting on reconciliation, and confirmed that in his view, the current plan being entertained by Obama and Dems to pass reform via that tactic can, in fact, be made to work.

[...]

Conrad caused a big stir yesterday by saying: “Reconciliation cannot be used to pass comprehensive health care reform.” This was widely interpreted as claiming that the Dem way forward is a non-starter.

But Conrad patiently explained that the media interpretation of his comments is wrong. He was merely saying reconciliation would not be used to pass a comprehensive bill, and would only be used to pass the sidecar fix, which he said is workable, depending on what’s in it.

“Reporters don’t seem to be able to get this straight,” Conrad said, hitting the “misreporting” he said is widespread. “Comprehensive health care reform will not work through reconciliation. But if the House passes the Senate bill, and wants certain things improved on, like affordability, the Medicaid provisions, how much of Medicaid expenses are paid for by the Federal government, that is something that could be done through reconciliation.”

“A sidecar would be a good candidate for reconciliation depending on what’s in it,” Conrad said, adding that he didn’t think fixes to abortion or immigration provions would likely work, something that could create obstacles to passing the Senate bill in the House.

There. That's pretty much what we thought he meant.. Kudos to Sargent for giving Conrad the chance to straighten it out, though I do wish it'd come out straight when Conrad had the admittedly larger platform of the Sunday talk shows. Don't you?

Now on to the next round of questions.

Conrad also explained in new detail why he believes that the House must pass the Senate bill first, a view that has been denounced by some critics who want the Senate to pass its fix before the House acts.

Conrad said that under Congressional rules, for a reconciliation fix to be “scored,” it’s not necessary that it become law, but it is necessary for it to have passed both houses of Congress before getting fixed. “For the scoring to change it has to have passed Congress, and that means both houses,” he said.

“The only thing that works here is the House has to pass the Senate bill,” Conrad continued. “Then the House can initiate a reconciliation measure that would deal with a limited number of issues that score for budget purposes.” After that, the Senate would pass the same reconciliation fix, Conrad explained, because even on the fix itself the House must go first because the lower chamber must initiate “revenue bills.”

Is he talking about scoring the Senate-passed health bill, so that the drafters of the reconciliation bill will know what numbers they need to work with? That is, so that they'll know what numbers they're "reconciling" with the demands of the budget resolution adopted for this fiscal year? Or is he talking about getting a score for the reconciliation bill itself?

I can understand that reconciliation is supposed to reduce the deficit (even though Republicans have used it to increase the deficit in the past, when they've been clever enough to issue reconciliation instructions that actually called for blowing a $1.25 trillion dollar hole in the budget). So it does indeed make some sense that you'd need to be able to demonstrate that a proposed reconciliation bill does what the budget resolution's instructions say it should. And that's something you should presumably have to demonstrate before the parliamentarian will allow you to make use of the expedited procedure to pass it.

And I can understand that a bill's scoring changes as its legislative language changes, such that a committee markup will make a difference, amending it on the floor will make a difference, etc., and that a score awarded to a House-originated bill will not necessarily be valid once it reaches the Senate, or vice versa. Similarly, a bill will likely have a different score yet again when it passes the second house, and another yet again when both houses finally pass a unified version.

But it can't possibly make any difference how the reconciliation bill is scored after it's passed both houses, at least with respect to whether or not the reconciliation process can be used to pass it. That'd be completely illogical. So that can't really be what he's talking about, can it? Because by the time a reconciliation bill is passed by both houses, all the decisions regarding its eligibility will have been made already. If the scoring helps decide a reconciliation bill's eligibility for the expedited process, the score after it's passed can't have any bearing.

So in this case, it seems Sen. Conrad must talking about scoring the main health insurance reform bill passed by the Senate, presumably so that an accurate reconciliation bill can be crafted based on the Senate bill's dictates. He must mean that the score the crafters of the reconciliation bill will need to have in hand must be based on the finalized version of the bill, which typically means the one agreed to by both houses. That makes sense, but only to a point. Remember that in this particular situation -- even as Conrad describes it -- any of the paths forward are supposed to be contingent on the House passing the Senate bill exactly as it's now written, with no amendments whatsoever.

I'm not an economist, and there's a lot about how the CBO works that's still a mystery to me, but I'd have to guess that if the Senate bill has been scored, and the House plans to pass the Senate bill verbatim, then that probably means the score for the final version of the bill is going to be the same as it was when the Senate passed it. Wouldn't you think?

And if that's the case, then the score the bill got when it passed the Senate is the same score it's going to get when it passes the House. Which would mean -- unless there's more to it, and that could always be the case -- that the bill's pretty much been scored, and there's no such obstacle to the Senate dealing first with whatever reconciliation fix the House sends them, before the House takes up the main bill.

What do you think?

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 09:10 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  What are the prospects... (0+ / 0-)

    ...of a successful Republican challenge to this procedure, given the present makeup of the Supreme Court? Could such a challenge go that far?

    Reporter: Is there any way to overtake Fox News? Shari Anne Brill: Smarter people need to be having more kids.

    by Newton Snookers on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 09:13:44 AM PST

  •  This is his line and he is sticking to it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jnhobbs, JML9999

    This is what I get from his legislative staff.

    Until leadership tells him otherwise.

    Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices -- François-Marie Arouet

    by CA Berkeley WV on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 09:15:05 AM PST

  •  I think the key thing here (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RenaRF, jnhobbs, JML9999, PhilJD

    is that Conrad is on board for passing a sidecar through reconciliation.

    The technicalities, the lawyers can work out. But I think we're going to get a HC bill, possibly including a Public Option (although I don't hold too much hope), and the wingnut head explosions will be a delight to behold.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 09:15:15 AM PST

    •  I agree... (0+ / 0-)

      ...but the notion that the senate must wait until the house has passed their initial version with the objectionable nelson and other stuff is crazy.

      And then after the senate "fixes" that bill, the house will have to come back and vote again for the same bill that doesn't include those things just makes that process cumbersome.

      In all practical terms, the senate needs to "fix" their final bill in reconciliation and then send it to the house for final approval.  It is too much to expect the house members to vote twice more on this bill.

  •  Say what!.the CBO was "Scoring" draft after Draft (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jnhobbs

    The House bill, Senate Finance,Senate Help etc etc

    Afghanistan:Graveyard to empires-It's not just a bumpersticker

    by JML9999 on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 09:17:11 AM PST

    •  They so totally have nothing to do over there ;-P (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jnhobbs, JML9999

      It was so precious to have Senators bluster about the weeks the CBO estimated for a good scoring after Sen. Baucus could not close before August on his gang-written bill out of the Finance Committee.

      Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices -- François-Marie Arouet

      by CA Berkeley WV on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 09:19:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Again: Who cares what Conrad thinks? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    polecat, BenGoshi, lalo456987

    Who cares what sort of dance he comes up with to 'fix' his original quote? It's out there via the Wurlitzer Right Wing Echo Chamber now--no reconciliation to fix health care.

    Mission Accomplished. Message sent. Retraction and 'explanation' issued, ass covered.

    Fuck him.

    "I feel a lot safer already."--Emil Sitka

    by DaddyO on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 09:24:01 AM PST

  •  I think... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JML9999

    ...my head will soon explode.

  •  David! Stop confusing a good obstruction... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    polecat, BenGoshi, 714day, JML9999

    ...with the facts.  The insurance companies that own Conrad might get upset...

  •  So does that mean they will score the Rec fix as (0+ / 0-)

    if Senate bill has already been signed? That would be logical because they already know what is in the Senate bill. And they know the The Rec fix. will be signed right after the Senate bill is signed.

    •  The facts they need are there. (0+ / 0-)

      The only question is whether CBO is convinced (or someone convinces them) that they're not allowed to score it until it passes both houses. Which would seem on its face to be ridiculous, since they've already scored it.

  •  Stenography 101 (0+ / 0-)

    DW: isn't ironic that the Traditional Media writes down everything the Republicans say verbatim w/o questioning them on it, but somehow they manage to deliberate misquote Conrad in this day w/ digital recorders and cell phone videos?

  •  I think Conrad is trying to shoot down (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BenGoshi, 714day, JML9999

    "Reconciliation First," which implies that he's also against fixing the Senate bill.

    Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
    I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
    -Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 09:28:48 AM PST

  •  The House doesn't want to go first because... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    srkp23, JML9999, davekro, CA Berkeley WV

    .
    . . . it doesn't trust the Senate.  And with knaves and cretins and triangulators and appeasers like Conrad calling the shots, I can certainly understand the House's point of view.

    .

    "I have to go now. I feel . . . sticky." Anthony Bourdain

    by BenGoshi on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 09:29:56 AM PST

    •  So the Republicans will vote against ending the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BenGoshi, 714day

      Cornhusker kickback, and against reducing the number of people who will be taxed on their health insurance, and against reducing the amount of healthcare they will be taxed for? That is what they would be voting against if they voted against budget reconciliation.

      The guy who blows the game right as the buzzer is sounding can't just point at the other guy who made a mistake at the beginning of the game and avoid the blame.

      Wear it like a hat Republicans.

  •  I think the senate needs to get off its butt... (0+ / 0-)
    ...and do the work they need to do on this bill.  It seems to me that the only hindrance to them "reconciling" it is themselves.

    If they have the 51 votes, who cares if the house has passed it yet or not?  Isn't that the senate democrats call to make?  Isn't the hindrance really of their own making in their minds?

    seriously, what are they so "afraid" of.

    Seems to me that if the senate democrats really wanted to do something, no matter what it was and no matter what the insane rules of the senate are, they really could.

  •  I think I know what Conrad means (0+ / 0-)

    I think that Conrad is saying that in order to do reconciliation, there must be scoring on the law that is being amended.  While CBO can score the Senate bill for purposes of scoring it as a bill, Conrad is saying that Congressional rule PROHIBIT CBO from scoring the bill as a "law" for purposes of reconciliation until passed by both Houses because until then it is technically possible that the other House will amend the bill.  Thus, Conrad seems to be saying that Congressional rules require the scoring of a law that is being amended through reconciliation for Congress to be entitled to use the reconciliation process on that law.  He is also saying that this scoring must be the scoring of a "law" (i.e., bill that has passed both Houses) and cannot be the scoring of a "bill"--no matter how likely everyone believes that the bill ultimately will be identical to the law (because it is still possible for amendment by the other House).  Until the legislation is passed by both Houses, it is not a law--and cannot be treated as a law--for purposes of reconciliation scoring.

    •  A bill does not become a law until... (0+ / 0-)

      ..it is signed by the president- and budget reconciliation is a manuever that occurs before something becomes a law.

      Conrad's point is only a point of logical procedure, but it does not have to dictate the process that the senate uses.  The senate can do this if they want to.  

      I don't buy the argument that the house has to pass their bill first.

      Seriously, does anybody think the republicans would let any of these process issues get in the way of them passing more and more tax cuts for the rich?

      •  Reconciliation is under Budget Act 1974 so there (0+ / 0-)

        law there not just Senate procedure. So that is why David looked at the wording of the law earlier.

        It says 'law, bill and resolution"  and CRS

        Congress and the President could use reconciliation procedures to quickly make any adjustments in existing law or pending legislation that were required to achieve budget policies as they changed between the adoption of the spring and fall budget resolutions.

        Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices -- François-Marie Arouet

        by CA Berkeley WV on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 10:11:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  thanks. (0+ / 0-)

          Of course, if they "must" have the house pass the bill first that is one thing.  But, if they can avoid that, it would be best politically.

        •  CRS study is outdated (0+ / 0-)

          It refers to the original version of the Budget Act that had spring and fall budget resolutions with a reconciliation bill coming in between.

          And - as I elaborate on in a later posting - I believe that the "bill and resolution" language refers to measures that were subject to a special process called deferred enrollment.

          •  David mentioned that in his piece yesterday (0+ / 0-)

            that I linked to but did not requote.

            The adoption of fall budget resolutions is a practice that's fallen by the wayside in recent decades, with Congress now preferring to adopt just the one resolution, usually timed in the spring. A number of changes to the process have been adopted along the way, including the infamous Byrd Rule, so it may well be possible that current practice differs somehow on the question of whether reconciliation may be used to change pending legislation. But it seems plain that originally, reconciliation did indeed contemplate the necessity of changing pending, as-yet-unpassed legislation, which is exactly what we're looking at here.

            This is a chicken dance between the House and Senate. Easter Recess is a bright line.

            I sure hope someone has sent an "interested person" to Sen. Byrd's office to listen.

            Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices -- François-Marie Arouet

            by CA Berkeley WV on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 12:36:42 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  "Reporters don't seem to (0+ / 0-)
    be able to get this straight,"

    Poor children. It's the short bus for them. If only they'd paid more attention during their school years.

    "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it." Twain

    by Gentle Giant on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 09:43:39 AM PST

  •  David (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BarackStarObama

    This is a bit off-topic, but will you be explaining soon in another article what is going on with Bunning today?

    I thought that as of today, the clock had run out on his objections and the Senate could move for a cloture vote on the emergency unemployment extensions bill.

    But now all the news reports are saying he is still mucking up the works (although some reports are saying the Dems are letting him do this, giving him rope to hang himself, I guess).

    Signed:

    Confused.

    •  There's no clock. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BarackStarObama

      He's objecting to unanimous consent requests. There's no clock on those.

      Someone could have made a motion to proceed to consideration of the bill and then filed cloture on that motion and cloture on the bill, but that didn't happen because Bunning could have made that procedure take two weeks, and by that time, someone will already have filed the same motions and petitions on a year-long extension instead of this 30-day one.

      •  David, I thought after cloture is filed... (0+ / 0-)

        you ignore it for one day, then wait one hour after the Senate convenes, and then can vote to invoke cloture.  That limits debate to 30 hours, and then a final vote can occur.  This seems like less than a week, how could Bunning make it last 2 weeks?  Thanks.

        "I won't give them hell, I'll give them the truth, which will seem like hell." -President Obama

        by BarackStarObama on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 11:24:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Here's how. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BarackStarObama
          1. You make a motion to proceed to consideration of the bill. That motion is filibustered.
          1. You file a cloture motion on Monday, and must wait through Tuesday and an hour into Wednesday to vote on it.
          1. You invoke cloture, and the 30 hour clock brings you into mid-day Thursday.
          1. Finally, mid-day Thursday, you get an up-or-down vote on the pending question. That is, the motion to proceed to consideration of the bill.
          1. Assuming you have a majority, the Senate has, at mid-day Thursday, agreed to... begin debate on the bill!
          1. Bunning begins to filibuster the actual bill, now that you've wasted a week getting to a vote on whether or not to end debate on the question of whether or not you should begin debate!

          Now you're ready to file cloture on the actual bill itself, assuming you don't have a large number of amendments you want to consider and which might take you more than 30 hours to get through.

          If you're not going to hold session over the weekend, you can file your cloture petition and expect a vote on Monday -- if you're even going to be in session on Monday, which is often not the case. But if you come back on Monday and hold your cloture vote, the 30 hour clock into mid-day Tuesday.

          That's about as fast as it can go without staying in continuous session. A week and a half to get to the vote. Longer if you don't realize you need to file cloture right away and don't start the process until later in the first week. And longer still if you don't meet in session on Mondays or on Fridays, as is often the case.

          •  Thanks David, I didn't realize they would... (0+ / 0-)

            need two cloture votes, which would take twice as long as I thought.  I think the "feed him more rope to hang himself" tactic is good for now. :-)

            "I won't give them hell, I'll give them the truth, which will seem like hell." -President Obama

            by BarackStarObama on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 12:07:10 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  It has to be budget related to use reconciliation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BarackStarObama

    ...and I thought Conrad basically meant that the parts of it that are "scored" as being budget-related will then be allowed, by the parliamentarian (with VP approval), to use reconciliation?  Of what use is "reconciliation" if two versions haven't passed already?  AND, you can't use reconciliation if it's not specifically budget-related.  The devil is in the details!  :-)

    •  But it is budget-related. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BarackStarObama

      Conrad says as much. That's actually the primary point of his comments, to demonstrate his agreement that the subject matter proposed for inclusion in the reconciliation bill is undoubtedly budget-related.

      That part of the point is a dead issue, except for the Republicans whose game plan is to continue lying about which bill is going through reconciliation.

  •  It always pisses me off (0+ / 0-)

    when a politico says something murky and generally inflammatory, and then blames the audience for needing a translation from the expert.

    Before you win, you have to fight. Come fight along with us at TexasKaos.

    by boadicea on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 10:29:56 AM PST

  •  My brain... (0+ / 0-)

    exploded around the 5th paragraph, and I'm trying to get a Ph.D. in statistics.  So I'll just leave it to those who understand this stuff.  :-\

  •  Scoring Issue (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    David Waldman, CA Berkeley WV

    I think that Conrad is saying that scoring must be from current law. It's true that the Budget Act says "laws, bills and resolutions" but I believe that the reference to "bills and [joint] resolutions" refers to measures that were passed by Congress but held at the Speakers Desk under a process called deferred enrollment. The idea was that you could pass all the appropriations bills - for example - but not send them to the president for signature until congress had a chance to look at final product and make changes through the reconciliation process.

    I had a hand in writing this language, but it has been a long time since I looked at it closely.

    Other factors are that reconciliation instructions are found in the budget resolution (which hasn't been considered yet) and that House and Senate reconciliation scoring rules are different.

    I will take a closer look at the Budget Act and the 2010 budget resolution and see if I can clarify matters.

    BTW - I am not working on this issue, just an interested bystander.

    •  Well, glad you are interested (0+ / 0-)

      I have a contact with a legislative director in the Senate, but I need to keep it friendly.

      Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices -- François-Marie Arouet

      by CA Berkeley WV on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 12:25:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Interesting! (0+ / 0-)

      Tell us what you learn!

      In the meantime, I'll just note that they're working off of the reconciliation instructions included in last April's budget resolution, and the word from the parliamentarians is that they're inclined to consider such instructions as valid for the duration of the Congress that approves them.

  •  FY 2010 Reconciliation language (0+ / 0-)

    Here's the language from the FY 2010 budget resolution conference report.

    TITLE II—RECONCILIATION
    Title II of the resolution includes reconciliation instructions. The
    instructions direct a committee to make changes in laws under its
    jurisdiction that affect revenues or direct spending to achieve a
    specified budgetary result. The legislation used to implement those
    instructions is reported as a reconciliation bill.
    Section 201 includes reconciliation instructions to committees for
    health care reform and for education, but not for other policy areas.
    In section 201(a), entitled Health Care Reform, the Committee on
    Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Ways and Means
    each are instructed to report changes in laws by September 29,
    2009, to reduce the deficit by $1 billion for the period of fiscal years
    2009 through 2014. In section 201(b), entitled Investments in Education,
    the Committee on Education and Labor is instructed to report
    changes in laws by September 30, 2009, to reduce the deficit
    by $1 billion for the period of fiscal years 2009 through 2014. Reconciliation
    instructions do not preclude the consideration of legislation
    in these policy areas under regular order.
    Procedural language included in section 201(c) permits but does
    not require the Clerk of the House to join two separate reconciliation
    measures that meet the above descriptions, once one such
    measure has passed the House, for the purpose of forming a single
    engrossed reconciliation bill within the meaning of section 310 of
    the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
    The House has adopted a rule relating to reconciliation instructions
    (clause 7 of rule XXI) that requires that any reconciliation instruction
    must not increase the deficit or reduce the surplus over
    the time periods specified in the House pay-as-you-go rule. The reconciliation
    instructions provided in title II satisfy the requirement
    of clause 7 of rule XXI.

    •  Wrong version (0+ / 0-)

      Sorry, I posted the House-passed version. The conference report language is as follows:

      TITLE II--RECONCILIATION

      SEC. 201. RECONCILIATION IN THE HOUSE.

           (a) Health Care Reform-

                 (1) Not later than September 29, 2009, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce shall report changes in laws to reduce the deficit by $1,000,000,000 for the period of fiscal years 2009 through 2014.

                 (2) Not later than September 29, 2009, the House Committee on Ways and Means shall report changes in laws to reduce the deficit by $1,000,000,000 for the period of fiscal years 2009 through 2014.

           (b) Investing in Education- Not later than September 30, 2009, the House Committee on Education and Labor shall report changes in laws to reduce the deficit by $1,000,000,000 for the period of fiscal years 2009 through 2014.

           (c) Single Engrossment- The House may direct the Clerk to add at the end of a bill addressed by this section the text of another measure addressed by this section as passed by the House to form a single engrossed reconciliation bill within the meaning of section 310 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.

      SEC. 202. RECONCILIATION IN THE SENATE.

           (Senate reconciliation instructions to be supplied by the Senate.)

  •  Scoring the reconciliation fix... (0+ / 0-)

    i.e. what it would do to the budget, is what makes sense, and must be initiated in the House since it is revenue issue (which must therefore come from the House). CBO can score based on the Senate bill as passed for the baseline numbers that the reconciliation fix(s0) would then alter. If those numbers make the reconciliation fix a clear path on a budgetary issue, then it would clear the parliamentarian ruling and can be voted on through the rec. process.

    That is the only thing that makes sense.

    No wonder the media "misreports" what Conrad says, because what he says is procedural bafflegab.

    cheers,

    Mitch Gore

    Pass Medicare buy-in for all via reconciliation, since it is fiscally related (and sound) policy.

    by Lestatdelc on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 12:39:10 PM PST

  •  Well, I think you deduced (0+ / 0-)

    a whole lot more than I could about what on earth Conrad was talking about re scoring.

    But David, I wonder what you think about the second part of Conrad's thinking:

    "The only thing that works here is the House has to pass the Senate bill," Conrad continued. "Then the House can initiate a reconciliation measure that would deal with a limited number of issues that score for budget purposes." After that, the Senate would pass the same reconciliation fix, Conrad explained, because even on the fix itself the House must go first because the lower chamber must initiate "revenue bills."

    We already knew his assertion that the House had to pass the Senate bill first. But here he goes further, saying that the House must also initiate and pass the "sidecar" fix first too.

    This must happen, he says, because the fix, which is a "revenue bill," must be initiated by the House.

    Now, I’m not sure he is being entirely forthcoming here. Haven't I read you argue recently that the Senate could simply strip out the entirety of an existing "revenue bill" that has passed the House, and is currently languishing in the Senate, and insert the new "fix" language?

    (And would that come with its own problems, namely, the House would then be obligated to reconcile the new "fix" language with the original language of the House bill, whatever that was? If so, maybe stripping an existing bill is a nonstarter.)

    In any case, let’s suppose Conrad’s view prevails, and the House does have to pass the Senate HCR bill, and then initiate and pass the sidecar fix.

    What would that mean for the logistics of the push for the Public Option?

    The House would have to choose a version of the Public Option to include, and take a completely new vote on it.

    In this scenario, the Public Option, if it survives the House vote, would be incorporated into the main bill the Senate considers, and would not be introduced via amendment, as is being speculated in several quarters.

    Wouldn't that mean it could be watered down again, or even stripped, by a simple up-or-down vote on an amendment?

    I can imagine a group of ten centrist Dem Senators unwilling to vote for a House-passed Public Option. Instead, they resurrect the infamous Triggered Public Option via amendment, and hold the entire reconciliation fix hostage, refusing to vote for it unless the Trigger is adopted. The ploy could even attract some Republican votes. If most of the Dems capitulated, the Senate would basically be kicking the House in the teeth again, daring them to be the ones to kill HCR by opposing the Trigger.

    The alternative is that the House pass a sidecar fix without a Public Option, waiting for the Senate to add its own weak version via amendment, and then, finally, the House passes the fix again, with the weak P.O.

    Either of these scenarios seems like a more perilous path for the Public Option than what is currently being gamed out. What do you think?

    •  Regarding revenue bills, etc... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      along

      Yes, you did once see me describe the process by which the Senate strips out the guts of House-originated legislation and uses the vehicle to get around the requirement that revenue measures start in the House.

      But I think the difference here that could possibly prevent the Senate from doing this is the use of the reconciliation procedure. You can't just declare a bill eligible for passage under the expedited procedures because you feel like it. It has to qualify in the nature of its content, its compliance with operative reconciliation instructions, etc.

      I guess you could raise questions, then, about whether or not the Senate could take a House-passed bill that didn't pass the House as a reconciliation bill, strip out the contents, and then seek to pass that bill in the Senate under reconciliation rules.

      Could you do that? I could see an argument against it, since the bill the Senate would be holding was technically passed under different procedures (though reconciliation in the House is largely indistinguishable due to the strict majoritarian operation of that body), and not eligible for conversion into a reconciliation bill in the Senate.

      On the other hand, why not? The content would be entirely new, and if that new content met with the standards for reconciliation, why shouldn't it be considered a legitimate reconciliation bill? It's not like passing it that way in the Senate bypasses the House's need to consider and pass it under its own reconciliation rules later on. Any substitution like that sends the bill back to the other house, anyway. So why couldn't the House then take it up as a reconciliation bill?

  •  Conrad is not in favor (0+ / 0-)

    of amending the Senate Bill. Why on earth would you think he was? He continues to say negative things about how difficult the process will be, etc. You believe it's a positive sign that he isn't on the record against reconciliation?

    You have to figure the House, Pelosi, Grijalva made a deal with the White House and a majority of Senators to use reconciliation on a specific set of changes. I think that's the only way the House would back down on their desire to get the changes passed first, then passing the Senate bill later. That implies Biden will preside over the Senate process, and the parliamentarian will play no role whatsoever. The process has to be totally programmed in advance; to assume otherwise would be to assume that the House has already caved in to accepting whatever the Senate decides to do at any particular point of the process.

    The parliamentarian is a useful person to smooth the everyday functioning of the Senate; the majority and minority agree in principle to follow his rulings on minor matters so that there aren't arguments over every little detail of procedure. He's like WD40 for the Senate machinery. This is a major issue; it is strange indeed to claim that an employee holds the fate of major reform legislation in his hands. Practically speaking, it is simply not true. Joe Biden will make the rulings. You think the parliamentarian is going to object?

    In any case, Kent Conrad is talking up all these procedural points because he's lost an argument with his peers. The other day he basically told Nancy Pelosi and the House to drop dead. I suggest he would only act this way if he had been against a pre-programmed series of actions, and had lost. The rest of this is choreographed. (The most recent dance step was the President's inclusion of totally inconsequential 'Republican' earmarks, for studies and trial programs and such.)

    Why is Kent angry? (Honestly, you don't see anger in his body language in these interviews?) Why is he doing the interviews in the first place? It's not because he's the point person for what's going to happen. It's because he's not the point person. The reconciliation bill will not be going to his committee. That explains everything that he's said so far, and also why you shouldn't pay any attention to what he's saying. In the end, he'll have to vote yes anyway. So he's angry.

    The public option sign-up in the Senate is a wild card. What is the import, if the process is already planned out? It smells to me like public relations to satisfy the majority of Americans who say they support it. I want to believe they made a deal to actually include it if our guys in the Senate could round the votes up, but I suspect I'm just trying to avoid admitting to myself we've lost. I'm not ready to say I give up.

    The ray of hope is, ironically, that Kent Conrad is not in favor of the public option, never has been, and Kent Conrad is ticced off about something. Keep the faith.

  •  One of these things is not like the other (0+ / 0-)

    We have a House bill that was passed by the House. We have a Senate bill that was passed by the Senate. On the large policy issues, they square up, but the Senate did not pass the House bill with modifications. It passed its own bill. Therefore, neither bill has been passed by both houses. I believe this is what Conrad is trying to say.

    Had the Senate bill more closely aligned with the House, perhaps this wouldn't be the case, but it differs in substantial ways (as we all know). How can the CBO score the subsidies without knowing which version of the subsidies to use?

    It's so circular it becomes a spiral, almost, but every time I read through the alchemy that is reconciliation it seems to me that there has to be an existing law in order to amend provisions via reconciliation.

    •  I don't think so. (0+ / 0-)

      I don't think the House bill figures into anyone's thinking at all. Certainly not Conrad's. His assumption is that the Senate bill is the operative one, and that the House will pass it verbatim. I haven't seen anyone discussing the plan whereby the main bill is passed and a reconciliation bill passes alongside it even hint that the plan involves the Senate bill being directly amended. That can't work, because amending the Senate bill at this point would require the Senate to pass it again under regular order, and that could be filibustered.

  •  I think you're right, once again. (0+ / 0-)

    More than that, I think Conrad is being purposely obtuse in an ongoing effort by the Senate to continue to exert pressure on the House to act, and act first.

    The Senate wants its way. And, by golly, they're willing to put a new "Villian of the Day!" out there to create confusion so as to help that effort.

    All that's left is to see how quickly the House caves... again.

    More and Better Democrats

    by SJerseyIndy on Wed Mar 03, 2010 at 05:53:57 AM PST

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