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Did the House just release its reconciliation package?

Nope. The bill on the House Budget Committee's web site that's being called the reconciliation bill is not the reconciliation bill, or at least not what people mean when they talk about the reconciliation bill. It's the bill that will become the reconciliation bill. You see this occasionally in the House and Senate, where the oddities of the rules occasionally make it useful to put a new bill in the hollowed-out shell of an old bill.

TARP, for instance, was passed using Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici's Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. The Senate health bill was written on the pages of the Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act of 2009. And the reconciliation bill will be written on this earlier piece of legislation.

The reason for this? The original reconciliation instructions require Democrats to use a bill written before 10/15/09, and this bill fits, well, the bill. What'll happen next is that the legislation will head to the Rules Committee, who'll erase what's currently on the page and replace it with the real reconciliation package. It's a bit like how painters will reuse a canvas they've already painted on, though they're doing it to save money and the House and Senate do it because their rulebooks are confusing.

This has been yet another perplexing lesson in how a bill actually becomes a law.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 15, 2010; 12:05 AM ET
 
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Comments

Congress is still at the job of not informing the American people of what they are doing. Posting false information and keeping the citizens confused is not ethical. Using proceedures to get around open transparent government is not ethical. Of course thats a word that does not register in Washington. Obama's WH is takeing que from Reid by making deals; vote buying with judgeships; positions in government; states bribes; threats and corruption. If Obama and congress will not listen to the American voter, WE DO NOT WANT THIS HEALTH CARE BILL, and have a "I don't care what they want or don't want" attitude, then we will burn the democratic party with a scorch the earth policy come November. I am sure out of the ashes will arise the true political party called the Democratic Socialist Party.

Posted by: lhudson828 | March 15, 2010 12:55 AM | Report abuse

Medieval scribes would scrape the ink off an unneeded manuscript page and use it again for their latest gig. These pages are now called palimpsests. Goodbye, Aristotle's treatise on comedy! Hello, Shephard of Hermes!

Or, a more apropos metaphor might come from the sausage-making world. This particular sausage is going to be emptied out and the skin used again. Same difference.

Posted by: boloboffin1 | March 15, 2010 1:38 AM | Report abuse

ezra klein, writing about how a bill becomes a law, and hollowed out shells of old bills, at five minutes after midnight.
perhaps it is time to count sheep:-)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-Npu_ly3ZM

Posted by: jkaren | March 15, 2010 2:15 AM | Report abuse

Now wait a second. The reconciliation rules in last year's budget (i.e. S. Con. Res 13) say:

"In the House, not later than October 15, 2009, the House committees named in subsections (a) and (b) shall submit their recommendations to the House Committee on the Budget. Upon receiving all such recommendations, the House Committee on the Budget shall report to the House a reconciliation bill carrying out all such changes without any substantive revision."

Don't those last four words mean anything?

Posted by: ferrylodge | March 15, 2010 2:23 AM | Report abuse

I keep thinking about what Bismarck said about laws and sausages.

I think the long, tedious, messy, unseemly process explains a lot of the confusion and opposition surrounding this bill. Once healthcare reform is up and running, and people start enjoying its benefits, opposition will melt away. If the Republicans run on repealing it, they're in for a rude awakening.

Posted by: jasperjava | March 15, 2010 2:53 AM | Report abuse

I think the real explanation is that the PDF posted on the budget committee website is a mistake. If you look at it, it's not the old HR 3200--although that's partly what it is. The rest is garbage.

Posted by: bmull | March 15, 2010 4:06 AM | Report abuse

On the whole, I think I'd much rather watch sausage get made.

Posted by: rt42 | March 15, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Good catch, ferrylodge. Add that to the legal challenge that will be filed if Obamacare is purportedly signed into law.

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 15, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I actually opposed proposed health care reform until I took some time to look the house and senate versions of the bill. I don't think the Senate bill doesn't enough to make any real difference in the cost to the public. But I do like the House bill, with its Public option, to me it's the right way to go. For those that oppose this Historical Legislation say, first look at the real facts; not he talking points. You won't be able to draw any other conclusion expect something must be done. Second, I say look at the proposed legislation for your self.
From there see if you have any better ideas, or if many of your ideas can be achieved by the existing legislation. That's the process I followed that lead from hating this bill to be in support of it. DON'T LET TALKING HEADS MAKE UP YOUR MIND FOR YOU! NOT THIS TIME!

Posted by: dbigrunt | March 15, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I actually opposed proposed health care reform until I took some time to look the house and senate versions of the bill. I don't think the Senate bill does enough to make any real difference in the cost to the public; but it could if it added stiff regulations,and restraints on the insurance industry. I do like the House bill, with its Public option, to me it's the right way to go. For those that oppose this Historical Legislation say, first look at the real facts; not the talking points. You won't be able to draw any other conclusion except something must be done. Second, I say look at the proposed legislation for your self.
From there see if you have any better ideas, and if many of your ideas can be achieved by the existing legislation. That's the process I followed that lead from hating this bill to be in support of it. DON'T LET TALKING HEADS MAKE UP YOUR MIND FOR YOU! NOT THIS TIME!

Posted by: dbigrunt | March 15, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

dbigrunt:

I've read BOTH the Senate and House bills in full. I oppose both of them.

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 15, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

ferrylodge: I second the kudos.
By using a bill that was "written" prior to October 15, 2009, all but two of the Democrats on the Budget Committee are admitting that S Con Res section 202 governs their actions. They're just ignoring the part that says they can't make substantive amendments to this bill. In other words, they don't feel bound by the rule of law.

Posted by: CapnRusty | March 15, 2010 11:07 PM | Report abuse

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