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The Uncertainties of Reconciliation

Brian Beutler has a good explainer on some of the difficulties inherent in trying to push a public plan through the reconciliation process. The basic lay of the land is that you might need a really strong public option to pass procedural muster. Or maybe you don't. Or maybe neither of them can pass. Or maybe it'll pass and sunset after five years.

It's hard to say, because the decision is made by the Senate parliamentarian, and he's not real public about his thinking. In the past, I've analogized the reconciliation process to passing legislation by penalty kicks, and I think I'll stick with that image. The point isn't that you can't do it. It's that you can't really predict what the outcome will be.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 1, 2009; 2:23 PM ET
 
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Comments

Ezra,

Why all the talk of reconciliation now? Is there not a viable a chance of getting 60 votes for cloture, either with an appointed replacement for Kennedy or with one or both of the Senators from Maine; after a party line vote in Finance?

Posted by: jmscher | September 1, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Or you can do like the GOP under Bush, fire the parliamentarian if he disagrees with you. Basically 51 votes decide the rules, and decide what rules can be set aside. The GOP was for it, before they were against it.

Posted by: cmpnwtr | September 1, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

either way when it doesn't reduce the defecit (due to employee dumping into a public plan) it will be limited due to sunset laws and we'll get basically 1+ year of a public option? How much sense does that make? The only saving grace for the Democrats would be if they were still in power in 2015 and could renew it. I doubt that would happen, especially if they have to ration it to struggle to keep it defecit neutral. If they had cost implications with setting reimbursement rates too low then providers wouldn't accept it (although one year + to test it isn't that long).

I just think this is just a big mess that Democrats may try but I expect them to fail miserably at.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 1, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I agree with cmpnwtr. It is time for the Democrats to get some cahones and play hard ball like the Republicans always seem to do.

As for the sunset worry. Let it. Can you really envision throwing a few million uninsured back out into the cold because "we changed our mind"? Doubt it.

Posted by: scott1959 | September 1, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

This is off-topic, Ezra, but I have to admit I'm impressed by your friend Jon Henke. I've given you and/or him a hard time in the past (at your old blog, at least) because for all that you touted him and others at thenextright.com as a moderate, more-or-less principled Republican, they still toe the party line, have no concrete policy proposals except for tax cuts, slobber all over Zombie Reagan, etc.

However, Henke has a post up now calling birthers "the Birchers of our time," calling for a boycott of WorldNetDaily, and among others he's trying to get the RNC on board. Now obviously, the RNC includes some birthers itself, but this actually does look like a step in the right direction rather than his usual lip service.

Good for him. Maybe (maybe) you were right about The Next Right.

Posted by: CyrusL | September 1, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

As it has been hinted at earlier, can't Reid & 50 senators appoint a parliamentarian to their liking?

If they do appoint a go-along parliamentarian, can't they do just about whatever they want through reconciliation?

Posted by: PorkBelly | September 1, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Once a universal health care entitlement is passed, even if the Rs get back to majority position, they will never dismantle it. They couldn't dismantle Soc. Sec. or Medicare (though they've tried), and they won't be able to dismantle an American Option health security entitlement for all Americans either.

Posted by: cmpnwtr | September 1, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

So overrule the parliamentarian.

If substance matters at all, that's what must be done.

Posted by: andgarden | September 1, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

The way this thing is going down, according to the scenario I've seen is this: There will be two bills, the first one is pre-reconciliation. It will be an easy one, with 60 plus votes- a tight insurance regulation reform instituting the exchange, and the minimum standards to compete, including community standards, open access, no previous conditions, no recision, and so on. These are all popular reforms.

The second bill will be post-reconciliation and will be harder, but will garner the 51 and even more. It will be the finance and public option part of the policy.

All this is doable and given the politics of it and the constituencies, it will pass. And it will prove to be popular by 2010.

Posted by: cmpnwtr | September 1, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

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