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What sort of guarantee does the House want from the Senate?

reidpeloagreement.JPG

Yesterday, Roll Call reported that the parliamentarian had ruled against Democrats who wanted to pass a package of reconciliation fixes to the health-care bill before the underlying legislation was signed into law. This in theory made it harder for Democrats, as it left House members scared that the Senate wouldn't actually pass the reconciliation package at all, as their bill would already be law.

Today, it seems that report -- which was echoed by Sen. Kent Conrad in comments to his colleagues -- might have been wrong. We'll see. But the hubbub got me thinking. We're hearing a lot about the need for Senate Democrats to give the House a "guarantee" that they will pass a reconciliation sidecar. But what would that guarantee look like?

Turns out no one knows. And most don't think it can possibly exist. The most common expression of this idea is that 51 senators will sign a letter promising to pass a reconciliation package. "Frankly, the idea of a little letter is the stupidest thing I've ever heard," says a House aide. "It’s 100 percent laughable." Plus, insofar as House Democrats want a letter of intent, Harry Reid already gave them one.

"The guarantee" -- whatever form it takes -- "needs to be more specific," says another House staffer. "The worry is that we’re going to pass a reconciliation measure and once the Senate gets it, they’ll start picking it apart." The issue, in this telling, isn't that the House needs an assurance that the Senate intends to pass a reconciliation package. It's that the House needs some assurance that the Senate intends to pass a reconciliation package that fulfills the House's concerns. "One of our takeaways from this whole process is to never underestimate the power in the Senate for just one senator to jam up the works," says the staffer.

Some of this fear, however, is a byproduct of uncertainty. House and Senate leadership haven't released their package of reconciliation fixes. Once they do, there will be a specific document that represents an agreement between the two chambers. And once that happens, support from the president and crucial senators might be enough to convince the House that the other chamber is on the same page as them.

Photo credit: Saul Loeb/Getty.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 12, 2010; 12:24 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Comments

*****Yesterday, Roll Call reported that the parliamentarian had ruled against Democrats who wanted to pass a package of reconciliation fixes to the health-care bill before the underlying legislation was signed into law. This in theory made it harder for Democrats, as it left House members scared that the Senate wouldn't actually pass the reconciliation package at all, as their bill would already be law.*****

Funny, my initial thought yesterday was this is likely a positive development for the passage of HCR. It takes away the potential excuse of scared House Democrats that they can't/won't vote for the Senate bill until the Senate bill passes the side car bill. If waiting until a sidecar bill isn't an option, because it violates the rules, what excuse do House Democrats have to engage in yet more interminable delay? PASS THE DAMN BILL ALREADY!

Posted by: Jasper999 | March 12, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Oh, for heaven's sakes, give yourselves a paper cut and rub your blood together or spit on your hands and shake hands or do whatever disgusting childish thing you need to do to trust each other. We need you to be grown ups about this, not a living embodiment of the Prisoner's dilemma.

Posted by: Jenn2 | March 12, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

What would a guarantee look like?

Speaker Pelosi only needs to tell the Senate that the House will suspend voting on any further Senate bills (a House "filbuster" of the Senate) until the reconciliation bill is voted on and passed by the Senate.

Pretty simple, really. Hardball politics.

Posted by: jc263field | March 12, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

@jc263field:
Interesting idea and not without merit. The only problem I see is the House has *already* passed most of the Obama first year agenda. When 300+ bills the House has passed are already awaiting action in the Senate, threatening to stop work seems a little like telling the bank you won't pay your car loan until they fix your mortgage.
.
The Senate already holds the cards because it can't pass anything substantial. Sad but true.

Posted by: rpixley220 | March 12, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I suppose one guarantee could come from Obama, as opposed to the Senate. He could give his word that he would not sign the Senate bill into law until he had the reconciliation bill on his desk to sign at the same time. This would also put the Republicans in a bind, because it would draw attention to any obstruction the Senate Republicans attempt. It's a safe move for the White House, since the Senate bill would become law after 10 days without Obama's signature.

Posted by: benjallen | March 12, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

What about a Sense of the Senate resolution saying if the House passes the Senate bill the Senate supports the following reconciliation fixes? Not binding but it requires a vote that would require Senators to go on record with support for the reconciliation package. And once they have done that, going back on it could be pretty painful.

Posted by: timzimm | March 12, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

On the Hill "Just trust me!" only goes so far.

Posted by: ronjaboy | March 12, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

The trust between the House and the Senate is irrelevant.

The House does not trust President Obama would ever allow the bill to go through an unpredicatable reconcilliation process. We already know the lengths he will go to to pass this. If he signs this into law its over. Period.

Even Democrats in the House are smart enough to know that.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 12, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

This reminds me of an old joke about a carpenter, doctor, and a lawyer who were asked by dying me to have his money put in the coffin with him just before being buried.

It turned out that the carpenter and the doctor were dishonest----they kept a portion of the dying man's cash, understanding that he was dead and wouldn't ever find out. They felt ashamed of themselves afterward.

It turned out that the lawyer was the only honest one, as he kept his promise and put a CHECK FOR THE FULL AMOUNT in the coffin with the dead guy.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 12, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

In theory made it more more difficult? More like put the nail in the coffin.

All this talk of reconciliation is half Democrat delusions, and half the press wanting to to keep the "horse race" narrative rolling.

It's actually kinda funny to see the Dems jostling about in their own catch-22. The Senate can't pass a new House Bill because of the devastating in-your-face loss of the Kennedy seat to Scott Brown. The House won't pass the Senate Bill which opens the floodgates to Federally funded elective abortion.

Even better is that the Dems lose more seats in November every day they push this.

Posted by: tom2 | March 12, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

@FE007: The House does not trust President Obama would ever allow the bill to go through an unpredicatable reconcilliation process. We already know the lengths he will go to to pass this. If he signs this into law its over. Period.

These are stories to frighten children.

1. The bill will have already passed by the time reconciliation starts. Its only the sidecar that needs to pass through reconciliation, and these fixes are popular (removing the cornhusker kickback, increasing subsidies, moving the cadillac tax back, etc.)

2. Reconciliation is very predictable, at least more predictable than "regular order" because there are less points for the repiglicans to stall the bill to death. The parliamentarian or Biden can rule extraneous repiglican amendments out of order. Debate is limited. The process was designed to be streamlined.

Posted by: srw3 | March 12, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

You're inviting another visit from the grammar police. Check the last word in this post.

Posted by: mayelinden | March 12, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

@tom2:The Senate can't pass a new House Bill because of the devastating in-your-face loss of the Kennedy seat to Scott Brown. The House won't pass the Senate Bill which opens the floodgates to Federally funded elective abortion.

After losing Kennedy's seat the dems are in a 59-41 minority--devastating!!! /snark

There is no federal funding for abortion in the senate bill, which is a pity as abortion is a legal medical procedure. Stupak was simply engaging in political grandstanding.

Posted by: srw3 | March 12, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

May be I am naive here - where does the Democratic President stand here? Can he not provide a public statement on that which assures House? The statement which will be hard for President to go back politically. For him to advocate reconciliation but not assuage legitimate grievances of House Members due to reconciliation is not leadership.

Because if he goes back, at least a House member can say that it is the President who over ruled him/her.

Posted by: umesh409 | March 12, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Why can't side-car for reconciliation be completed immediately (even before the House votes on the Senate bill) so that House knows exactly what's in it, and given to someone/anyone that House trusts to hold until proper time for submission/signing?

The reconciliation bill cannot be signed by Prez prior to underlying bill, but that doesn't mean it can't be WRITTEN and READY and WAITING to be signed prior to passage of underlying bill.

Posted by: onewing1 | March 12, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Gawd, Nancy and Harry look like sibs in this photo.

Posted by: onewing1 | March 12, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

It's just plain bothersome that for a piece of legislation this large the only way to make it law is to come up with 'tricks' and 'gimmicks' and 'promises'.

Is this really the way it has to be done?

Posted by: jeffreid1 | March 12, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

WHAT ABOUT A WARRANTY FOR TAXPAYERS, KID?


OK. One last time.

The public HATES the plutocrats because they keep FAILING -- cost over-runs, service failures, lazy workers. Sick, ridiculous and UNACCEPTABLE.

Kid, when Harry Reid and Karl Rove promise to cut THEIR pensions if major problems happen (of course, they will, which is another story) -- that's when your HATED Tea Party goes away.

Until then -- suck it up, kid. Get over it, you're defending INCOMPETENCE.

Posted by: russpoter | March 12, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

@Is this really the way it has to be done?

In a word, "yes".

Republican obstructionism, lock-step voting with their party (regardless of what they individually think/feel), as opposed to actually participating in the process of governing, leaves the Dems no other option.

Posted by: onewing1 | March 12, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Now Nancy want to NOT have the House vote on the bill. According to Politico.com:

"In addition, it looks like House Democrats won't have to vote directly on a Senate bill they really don't like. The speaker hasn't made a final decision, but she told her rank and file during the meeting that the plan now is to craft the legislation in such a way that they would "deem" the Senate bill passed once the House approves the package of fixes."

-----
Can she do this? I'm not up on all the House rules, I'm afraid.

Posted by: Antoinette1 | March 12, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

First, I believe that all would wish Harry Reids wife and daughter a speedy and complete recovery. They cannot and should not be associated with Prince Harry's drive to ruin this nation. But, the question has to be asked. How much, and what kind of medicare care would they have received were the Health Care Reform bill to be passed? Would it be the same level of care as proposed for the ordinary people of the US, or would it be a case of "everybody is equal, some are just more equal than the others">?

Posted by: shep8851 | March 14, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

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