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The House Reconciliation Bill Is Only Authorized to Make “Changes in Laws”

House leaders are considering approving the Senate health care bill by simply approving a reconciliation bill that would make some changes in the Senate health bill, without actually voting on the Senate bill.  The House would simply “deem” the Senate bill as passed.  The mastermind behind this “Slaughter Strategy” is House Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter.  This nutty plan seems like a sign of desperation, plus nuttiness, of course.  Did I mention that it’s nutty?  

Democratic Senator Kent Conrad was quoted as follows in the March 9 New York Times:

It’s very hard to see how you draft, and hard to see how you score, a reconciliation bill to another bill that has not yet been passed and become law…I just advise you go read the reconciliation instructions and see if you think it has been met if it doesn’t become law.

So, I took a quick look at S. Con. Res. 13 which was passed by Congress on April 29, 2009.  This seems to be at least partly the stuff Senator Conrad was talking about:

SEC. 201. RECONCILIATION IN THE SENATE.

(a) Committee on Finance- The Senate Committee on Finance shall report changes in laws within its jurisdiction to reduce the deficit by $1,000,000,000 for the period of fiscal years 2009 through 2014.

(b) Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions- The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions shall report changes in laws within its jurisdiction to reduce the deficit by $1,000,000,000 for the period of fiscal years 2009 through 2014.

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

SEC. 202. RECONCILIATION IN THE HOUSE.

(a) Health Care Reform-

(1) The House Committee on Energy and Commerce shall report changes in laws to reduce the deficit by $1,000,000,000 for the period of fiscal years 2009 through 2014.

(2) The House Committee on Ways and Means shall report changes in laws to reduce the deficit by $1,000,000,000 for the period of fiscal years 2009 through 2014.

(3) The House Committee on Education and Labor shall report changes in laws to reduce the deficit by $1,000,000,000 for the period of fiscal years 2009 through 2014.

(b) Investing in Education- The House Committee on Education and Labor shall report changes in laws to reduce the deficit by $1,000,000,000 for the period of fiscal years 2009 through 2014.

(c) Submissions- 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.

So, I tend to agree with Steve Schippert: “The notion of anyone ‘deeming’ anything ‘passed’ without going through the actual voting process of real passage is the kind of governance seen in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or Bashar Assad’s Syria or Castro’s Cuba.”  I could quote the Constitution too, but you get the idea….

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