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Another way for Repubs to block the health care bill

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.

Oy. Vey.

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.

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by John E Iacono on 02/03/2010 - 01:54 pm.

    I have simpler solutions for all this:

    The repubs decide NOT to filibuster the health care bill, and frightened dems back away from the cliff; or

    The repubs decide NOT to filibuster the health care bill, and the dems jump off the cliff and pass it.

    Either way, now or in 2011, I believe the bill will be dead or altered out of existence. Not sure which I would prefer.

    “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the poeple some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

  2. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 02/03/2010 - 02:57 pm.

    Mr. Black,

    The Senate Bill is “porky?”

    The house bill is not “porky?”

    If you want to see real pork, read Obama’s budget.

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/03/2010 - 05:07 pm.

    The Republicans have an infinite number of ways of doing nothing, and the current healthcare situation is better than nothing only if you’re very rich.
    If you can’t pay all of your own medical costs, your insurer can deny coverage no matter how good you think your plan is.

  4. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 02/03/2010 - 05:55 pm.

    Mr. Black and Paul,

    The headline should read, “How the Dems fumbled away healthcare.”

  5. Submitted by William Pappas on 02/03/2010 - 06:09 pm.

    Mr. Black,

    Am I the only person that finds the Pawlenty euphamism for the average working stiff, Joe Sixpack” incredibly demeaning and condescending? I suggest you change that to Joe CanDo as the typical middle class male wage earner (Pawlenty and McClung never refer to the average female worker) has been watching his benefits deteriorate, wages drop and personal worth slide for the last ten years and have still managed to function and contribute to this consumer economy. Even now belts are tightened and more money is borrowed to send their kids to college. It’s a pretty darn “can do” attitude if you ask me and a far cry from the implied ignorance, and mundane concerns of an alcohol dependent Joe Sixpack. Any of the bills in the Senate or House would have provided more reliable insurance and security for Joe CanDo. Too bad republicans in the Senate will make sure he never gets it.

  6. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/03/2010 - 06:57 pm.

    Ron–
    I assume that that includes wasting six months trying to achieve a bipartisan consensus in the Baucus subcommittee.

  7. Submitted by John N. Finn on 02/04/2010 - 08:33 am.

    If Mr. Pappas’ worthy euphemism suggestion for replacing Joe “Sixpack” doesn’t catch on, may I suggest Betty Box-wine for his female counterpart?

  8. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 02/04/2010 - 01:16 pm.

    Paul (#6). The Senate bill is hardly bipartisan. It is, rather, corporate friendly enough to please members of either party who receive gigantic contributions from insurance companies and other medical industry members.

    Baucus cleared all additions and changes with the companies, often before mentioning them to his committee.

    For the House to pass the Senate bill WITHOUT a public option, I think we could count on it to be enacted as is no matter how many promises are made.

    A truly bipartisan solution might be to adopt the system used in Norway and Switzerland. Like the Senate bill, insurance is compulsory. UNLIKE that plan, however, the government helps poor people pay their premiums. No one is left out. Health care is universal. All persons have a common benefit set determined by the government.

    The government manages health insurance like a public utility: all insurers must be non-profit organizations; there will be no denials for made-up “pre-existing conditions,” no coverage cancellations, no delays in payments to providers.

    The government reviews health care costs each year and adjusts premiums to be sure the costs are met. It adjusts payments to providers in areas with a high number of expensive patients to keep the system fair.

    For Republicans: The insurance system remains private, much as Excel Energy remains privately owned and profitable even though any possible abuses are prevented by tough oversight.

    For Democrats: Health care is there for everyone without exception, but monster corporations are not allowed to bleed our economy dry while increasing their premium costs and profits every year.

    (From 2001 to 2007, U.S. insurers merged themselves until only 10 very large companies controlled the entire market. These 10 companies increased their profits by 428 percent during those same years. Good for America? Obviously not.)

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