Republican sources tell The Hill newspaper that they have figured out a way to block the health care bill even if the Dems were to try to smuggle the next version through the Senate under the inaptly named “reconciliation” process.
To wit: Although reconciliation bills cannot be filibustered, they can be amended. If the Dems try to have the hamenealth care bill considered under the reconciliation loophole (which is itself problem, as I previously elucidated, because reconciliation is supposed to be for budgetary matters only) the Repubs would stand ready to offer amendment after amendment. Debate on amendments would be strictly time-limited, or not allowed at all, but they are supposed to be voted up or down, so if the Repubs stand ready with, let’s say roughly, an infinite number of amendments, all of which have to voted down (and the Senate votes by roll call), presumably the bill itself never comes up for a vote.
There are workarounds for this, too, if the Dems have a sufficiently aggressive ally in the chair, since the presiding officer may be empowered to rule that the amendments are purely dilatory and therefore do not have to be considered.
For the true masochists among you, CongressMatters has more details on the relevant rules.
These reindeer games with Senate rules and procedures are certainly among the reasons Joe Sixpack and Jane Whatever-she-drinks have decided that the problem is named “Washington.”
Have I mentioned that what’s needed is a set of common-sense rules that truly allows for full debate (by which I do not mean reading the phone book from the floor of the Senate) and then allows for an up-or-down majority vote.
By the way, as you know, the Senate doesn’t need reconciliation to pass the bill, since they have already passed a version of the bill. The House could adopt the Senate version any time over the next several months and, if the House doesn’t change a single comma, it would go to the president’s desk. But as you also know, there are many porky and otherwise unacceptable provisions in the Senate bill.
One strategy for dealing with that, which has been under discussion among Dems, would be to first pass the bill intact, then pass an agreed-upon-in-advance omnibus amendment to improve the most objectionable provisions, then posibly try to get that amendment through the Senate, possibly using the reconciliation process. In which case, go back to the top of this post and start over singing the song that never ends.