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Senate parliamentarian rules that bill must pass before reconciliation can be used

The thinkable has happened, and the Senate parliamentarian has ruled that the president must sign the health-care reform bill before the House and Senate can act on a reconciliation package.

In the Democrats' Senate Caucus meeting today, Kent Conrad apparently argued that this left the Democrats in an even stronger moral position. The reconciliation rider fixes unpopular elements of the health-care bill: the Nebraska deal, the Florida deal, the excise tax and so forth. If Republicans figure out some nuclear level of obstruction that could actually derail the reconciliation process, then they will effectively own the worst elements of the Senate bill, and Democrats can just spend their time hammering Republican obstructionism that has so lost touch with reality that they'd rather keep legislation they're against than let Democrats fix it. Or so goes the argument.

Meanwhile, the hypocrisy that the state-based Senate and the district-based House have embraced in their ferocious denunciations of these deals gets a nice showcase in Rep. Mike Capuano's list of complaints with the health-care bill. Most of them boil down to the need for Massachusetts to have more Nebraska-like deals.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 11, 2010; 4:14 PM ET
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Conrad's argument, I think, works... but only so far as it goes.

Does he, or anyone else, really think the Democrats could label the Republicans responsible for preventing legislation that would fix problems in the health bill that the Democrats passed completely on their own in the first place?

I'm not so sure.

Further, all those problems -- if they remained law, without a 'rider' or fix -- would sure be welcome fodder to the "repeal it!" movement the Republicans have promised for this fall and they would be a perfect distraction from the GOOD parts of the bill. All the more reason for the Republicans to oppose it.

Of course, we can always count on the media to differentiate the minute problems and the macro benefits, putting everything in its proper context, right?

Posted by: TheFactsFax | March 11, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

"...then they will effectively own the worst elements of the Senate bill..."

Mnpfh... back up the bus, Ezra.

You're saying that if the Senate-passed, overwhelmingly unpopular bill is signed into law by the President, and the Republicans/independents/concerned Democrats in the House don't go along with passing the "sidecar" reconciliation bill that "betters" some minor things, but leaves the whole objectional takeover of something the gov't has no business getting into in tough economic times especially ... then PR-wise, you flacks will have the strength to convince the AMerican people this big old (now passed into law) mess is somehow the Republican/independent/Democrats who didn't vote for it in the House/ 's trouble?

Good luck with that; I don't think you got a bus big enough to get all those people under, to convince voters that rolling over them was nothing deliberate on the part of the administration Dems, who clearly are in the drivers' seat, at this time.

Just remember: just because you're the party in power driving the bus with the AMerican people aboard, doesn't mean you've the right to not listen to where the passengers want to go. How well did that work out for W/Cheney in the end?

The passengers eventually will get a formal vote on the destination, and I don't think they want to go where you's seem to be intent on steering them.

Over and out.

Posted by: Mary42 | March 11, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Whoop -- TheFactsFax beat me to it.

(Do you have anybody in the office you potentially could bounce these posts off of before you put them up, so that you've the opportunity to address obvious objections to your partisan logic before you post it? Might help if you're in it for the honest argument, and not paid by the word/quantity.)

Posted by: Mary42 | March 11, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

This is a terrible argument to make. If this is the thickest reed they have to hold onto, Dems should kill this bill.

FWIW, let me take a stab at a quick counter to Conrad's "argument": 60 Democratic senators voted for a bill that contained kickbacks and vote buys on a massive scale--$200B and change. Then, knowing that this was all in the bill, which was widely unpopular with the public (not HCR generically, but THIS BILL IN PARTICULAR), they encouraged the president to sign it, which he did. Wow, that was pretty easy.

See, when the Dems start talking about "we knew it was a bad bill that needed to be fixed, but passed it anyway," etc., they step right into "I was for it before I voted against it" territory. Those political ads write themselves.

Posted by: philly211 | March 11, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Mary42- I didn't beat you to anything.

I wasn't attacking Ezra Klein, I was critiquing Sen. Conrad's argument. Klein himself included "Or so the argument goes..." in the post.

Don't lump me in with your nonsensical rant. I think Conrad's logic is off and is heavy on wishful thinking. I've no problem with Mr. Klein's work, the bills, health care reform, etc.

Posted by: TheFactsFax | March 11, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Can Biden, as President of the Senate, overrule this?

Posted by: Andrew36 | March 11, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

"I was critiquing Sen. Conrad's argument."

As was I. Styles differ, friend. People choose different words when criticizing

Wasn't attacking Ezra. Unless by objecting vociferously with words to his logic...

You think I'm picking on him personally by correcting his logic? Thin skin.

When his kind of nonsense is in influential positions, it's important to critique his logic. As did you, as did I.

Let the readers read, and decide which response they most relate too. Some people like to be polite and kind and gentle with their criticisms = ("I think Conrad's logic is off and is heavy on wishful thinking. I've no problem with Mr. Klein's work, the bills, health care reform, etc.)

Some take a different tack/tact to get to the same place (I don't think you got a bus big enough to get all those people under, to convince voters that rolling over them was nothing deliberate on the part of the administration Dems, who clearly are in the drivers' seat, at this time.)

You kids going to try to mandate some one-size-fits all commenting policy too, even with the Constitutional Free Speech amendment? Heck, that one is even stronger than the Commerce Clause precedent, on which the constitutionality of this whole mess eventually rests...

Think about that after you get done licking your hurt feelings?

Posted by: Mary42 | March 11, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Mary 42. Amen you said that about him thinking before he posts. This guy Ezra Klein wrote a post yesterday about members of congress issuing viewpoints on legislation through statements to the press. SHOCKING I tell you. Next he's going to tell you there are 100 members of the Senate. In truth, the only reason I come to this blog is to get a laugh because it is the most nonsensical one out there. Except for the fact he'll take those Dem talking points and shout them from the rooftops. He's really good at that.

Posted by: ChrisDC3 | March 11, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

The GOP is trying to block something that the American people have said time and again they DO NOT WANT.

We hear that healthcare cost are 18% of GDP. We all agree it is high. Govt costs us 20% and is growing... so which is more of a problem? I would say we need to do something about the size and COST of Govt. Let's get that under control first... Stop the crazy spending spree and get back to being responsible with tax-payer money.

All of us have to live within our means. It is time Govt had to do it to!

Posted by: tbastian | March 11, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Don't like what's going on? We the People have a voice: Meet the Ameican Citizen's Nemesis to Obama's ACORN group- Organizing For (a Socialist) America.

Pass it on!!

Posted by: obamaalmighT | March 11, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Okay- ENOUGH NOW WITH THE LIES!!! Reconcilliation my tukkas- There ARE some of us who actually took the time to READ the BILL for OURSELVES- Here's what's REALLY going on, and why they seem SO EAGER to agree to change things AFTER it's passed. Hold on for this one.

Beginning on page 1,000 of the measure, Section 3403 reads in part: ". it shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection."

"In other words, if President Barack Obama signs this measure into law, no future Senate or House will be able to change a single word of Section 3403, regardless whether future Americans or their representatives in Congress wish otherwise!!"PanHandle Willy 9 Mar 10

Do you understand NOW why we don't trust ANY of those MUTTS on Capitol Hill? So these bunch of elitists wants THEIR laws to govern American FOR EVER??? Even the Forefathers allowed room for AMENDMENTS!! Who do these demagogues think they ARE?

They want to go down in history as having been "The Ones" to turn America into a Socialist Democracy, which can't be rversed for all time.

Talking about sociopathic, megalomaniacal, narcissistic JENKAM!

Posted by: obamaalmighT | March 11, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

All the bad parts of the bill are there because democrats did not have the votes in the senate that they needed to pass a bill similar to that of the house.
Republicans offered amendment after amendment which were included in the legislation and then still would not vote for the result. If republicans were serious about reforming health care then there would be no need for deals for Florida or Nebraska and no excise tax problem. There would be no need for a Lieberman, a Bill Nelson or a Ben Nelson. If there were Ten Righteous Republicans who were for the people instead of insurance corporations there would be no need of deals. Democrats have a handful of senators who have been bought by insurance money but the republicans have their entire party working for the insurance corporations in the senate.
Even if by some chance the worst parts of the senate bill are retained, Obama would never sign any bill repealing health care. Any attempt at repeal would have to wait until at least 2013.

Posted by: seemstome | March 11, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

President Barack Obama and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Had a Very Different View the Use of Reconciliation in 2005

Explosive new video has surfaced today that shows President Barack Obama, and many other prominent Democrats condemning the Bush Administration in 2005 for Bush’s attempt to use reconciliation to push through judicial nominees.

These 2005 quotes are particularly jarring when compared to the 2010 quotes from the same folks about Obama’s attempt to use reconciliation to pass Obamacare. Senator Barack Obama, on 4/26/05, in response to a question on the “nuclear option” (how Democrats in 2005 characterized then-President Bush’s attempts to use reconciliation):

“He hasn’t gotten his way…uh…and that is now prompting a change in the Senate rules that really I think would change the character of the Senate uh forever and uh what I worry about would be that you essentially have still two chambers the House and the Senate but you have simply majoritarian uh absolute power on on either side and that’s just not what the Founders intended.”

Present Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid weighs in as well back on 5/18/2005, noting that

“The right to extend a debate is never more important than when one party controls both Congress and the White House. The filibuster serves as a check, on power, preserve our limited government.”

Considering Leader Reid’s comments yesterday that the Republicans should “stop crying” about Obama’s planned use of reconciliation to push through Obamacare, Reid’s comments in 2005 are particularly explosive in terms of today’s health care debate.

Present Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also chimed in with a verbal barrage on 5/23/2005 against then President Bush about controlling himself and calling upon her GOP collegues to go to Bush and tell him reconciliation is “a bridge to far” and that “you have to restrain yourself Mr. President.”

One could argue, in aftermath of the shocking GOP upset win in the Massachusetts Senate race in January 2010 by a candidate, Scott Brown, who explicitly campaigned against passing Obamacare, that a Senator from the Democratic side should have the type of conversation with the President as suggested by Secretary Clinton back in 2005.


Posted by: obamaalmighT | March 11, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

The people have said time and again they do not want this bill? When? Which people? What are their names? Did they make their wishes known through legal means such as voting?
In 2008 Obama ran on a platform which included health care reform. He won by 9 million votes. Those people are the ones whose voices count, not some straw polls or tea party mobs. No Karl Rove or Glenn Beck talking heads count either. We put people in power who are there to make decisions for us. By us, I mean those who voted for them and for those who did not. Those legally elected representatives who WON the right to make our laws.
If you don't like it then you know what you can do about it.

Posted by: seemstome | March 11, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Ironic how China has decided to implement universal health care and their population is 1,336,300,000 (#1 and 19.63% of world pop) and the U.S. is 308,845 (#3 and 4.54% of world pop). They believe that healthy citizens are also happy ones who will consume more. Yet the opponents of single payer/public option/medicare for all/universal health care allege that in the U.S. we can't afford such a program when, in reality, WE CANNOT AFFORD NOT TO. Health care in the U.S. is strictly FOR PROFIT and as long as that is the zeitgist, there will never be universal health care or anything that even comes close. Insurance companies, Big Pharma, HMO's, etc. have enough money to bury any substantive legislation that would change the status quo. Like Nixon said several years back, "China is the sleeping giant" and they now own a monumental amount of loans to the U.S...perhaps we could now learn from them???

Posted by: politico5 | March 11, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Massachusetts makes me proud.

Why hasn't the president told Americans that he made a campaign promise to give citizenship to 12 million illegals (this number could be as high as 20 million) - who can they apply for Medicaid, Medicare, the proposed health care plan, and all entitlement programs out there.

WHY NOT? He is buying 12 million votes at your and my expense.

If Americans had been told this out the outset - don't you think there would've been an uprising?

The Black and Hispanic caucus put him on the spot today.

Obama backing of immigration overhaul 'unwavering'
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE Associated Press Writer © 2010 The Associated Press
March 11, 2010, 5:33PM

Posted by: easttxisfreaky | March 11, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Ezra do they actually pay you for this drivel or do you get supplemental pay from Acorn or the SEIU? You are a complete shill for Obama and have lost all objectivity. What a worthless piece of tripe. Please start posting a warning label on your articles that people may actually lose intelligence after reading your it.

To clarify, if the democrats ram this through with reconciliation they will be hammered in the November and 2012 elections. Trying to say the Republicans are responsible for this stupidity is so convoluted it is simply breathtakingly stupid.

This worthless monstrosity of a "health care" bill if passed will be repealed. The only good to come out of it will be that perhaps the taxes that are going to be sucked out of the public over the next few years BEFORE the health care benefits begin, could be used to reduce the deficit.

Here is a hint. It is all about the jobs and economy. The nimrods we have in the White House, Senate and House that are focusing on health care, cap and trade, financial reforms are trying to ram through more progressive spending plans before the voters can drive a stake in their hearts in November. The public is awake and angry and they will be voting in November. Enjoy your time in the sun.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | March 11, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Mr Klein writes:

"The reconciliation rider fixes unpopular elements of the health-care bill: the Nebraska deal, the Florida deal, the excise tax and so forth."

This is news. Has Mr Klein seen said rider? I expect not since it does not yet exist.

Posted by: veryinterested1 | March 11, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

That Roll Call article is basically hearsay put forward by Republican Senate aides. it might be true, but is not at this point particularly persuasive

Posted by: williamcross1 | March 11, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe anyone could see these shenanigans from both sides and trust the two parties we have to do anything right. Maybe we should just outsource our healthcare to India.

Posted by: staticvars | March 11, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

This hangup the Democrats have with Republican obstructionism is beyond bizarre. Even to the point of being pathological. I'm sure there's an appropriate psychological term for the compulsion to blame others for one's own failings and shortcomings and inability to get a majority of both houses of Congress to agree on the same health care bills, but I can't think of what that term is at the moment.

Anyway. The Parliamentarian made the correct ruling, of course. So the Dems are either going to have to pass themselves some actual legislation or abandon all pretense of legitimacy and just ram that sucker through on Joe Biden's say so. Should be interesting!

Posted by: bgmma50 | March 12, 2010 12:01 AM | Report abuse

Who cares about the order, at least for the purposes of campaign ads.

Republicans jsut (masked grammerian bait) spent a year saying democrats want to execute the elderly to save money (despite the fact that the only reason medicare exists is the dem party). Do they really think re-ordering processes will stop them from attacking?

I just roll my eyes.

Posted by: rat-raceparent | March 12, 2010 1:01 AM | Report abuse

You roll your eyes while the country rolls the dice ...

No thanks. Come back again when you've got a better product to peddle.

Posted by: Mary42 | March 12, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I particularly loved obamaalmighT's rant -"hypocrites, liars, elitists, propagandists" (but only when the Democrats do it, huh? ;)).

Posted by: T-Mac | March 12, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

"Republicans offered amendment after amendment which were included in the legislation and then still would not vote for the result.
Posted by: seemstome"

I challenge you to name ONE Republican amendment in the bill. Just one. The only ones you could point to were amendments from Sen. Vitter (actually through Democratic Sen. Durbin) and Sen. Murkowski on preventive mammogram screenings that was subsequently revised by language proposed by Democratic Sen. Mikulski.

Now there may be plenty of non-progressive language in the bill. There may be moderate Democrat amendments. They may be concessions by Democrats to great ideas originally from or consistent with the ideology of Republicans. But Republican amendments? You won't find them. Despite countless attempts, they were rebuked every time.

Posted by: cprferry | March 12, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

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