(Updated) Your reconciliation primer…pass it along to everyone you know so they know the rules.
The GOP proved that by being informed with facts and prepared, the Democrats had no answer. An informed public will do the same.
The information below is of course is all subject to Nancy Pelosi being able to climb the equivalent of Mount Everest and get Democratic congressmen to commit political suicide.
Earlier today I thought John Kyl may have been misunderstanding Senate rules. It seems as though I was the one who was misunderstood to a degree. Kyl is right that there is only 20 hours for debate. However, when that 20 hours of debate is ended, the GOP can then theoretically offer an unlimited number of amendments to the Senate floor. Jim DeMint mentioned he is prepared to do this so the reconciliation process carries to November and likely to the election of the new Congress. This has never been done on the Senate floor before. Robert Dove in an interview with an apparent liberal blog confirms that the GOP can exploit quorum calls, offer unlimited amendments and insist their amendments be read on the floor. Judd Gregg in essence highlighted using these tactics and more in a letter to GOP Senate colleagues.
I came across some wonderful work by Keith Hennessey today where he wrote a crash course on reconciliation back last autumn where there was some question whether Harry Reid would be able to field 60 votes to get Obamacare through the Senate and how he could get the Senate to push it through via reconciliation if the Democratic leadership wanted to go this route. First, look here. Now in regards to the unlimited number of amendment tactic, Reid can object to the parliamentarian that the GOP is creating unnecessary amendments to delay. According to Senator Gregg in his letter, he was wanting to offer up amendments, germane (pertinent to the bill) or non-germane. If the GOP offers up non-germane amendments it could help bolster Reid’s argument so some care might be necessary here. My suggestion to the GOP would be to create germane, VERY LONG amendments that number thousands of pages each and insist on them being read on the floor. There is a reason why the White House continues to talk to Olympia Snowe. They still need a 60th vote to stop all of this by changing Senate rules to allow the House to rewrite legislation to get passage in order to stop the amendment tactic. (I was incorrect here. The White House likely is still courting Snowe so a new bill could be quickly crafted in the House and sent up to the Senate and get quickly passed because cloture could be invoked. Because the White House is still courting Snowe, this should definitely be the strongest indicator that Pelosi still doesn’t have the votes to pass the Senate bill in the House.)
Aside from the previously mentioned tactics, the GOP will also swiss-cheese the legislation via the Byrd Rule. There are six “tests” that the Byrd Rule administers to a reconciliation bill. If any parts of the legislation don’t pass Byrd Rule scrutiny, the GOP can make a point of order pointing out the violation to the Senate Parliamentarian. Second, after examination, Hennessey thinks that Obamacare might be impossible to pass via reconciliation. Why? I note some a couple of very key requirements in the Byrd Rule that Hennessey himself missed:
If either of these requirements are not met, the ENTIRE OBAMACARE BILL DIES. I definitely see Senator Coburn bringing up these points. Now we see just why Obama and the White House have been so focused on structuring a bill that “reduces” the deficit using accounting gimmickry to fool/mislead the CBO and in turn tarnish an impeccable organization. Paul Ryan pointed this out with devastating effectat last Thursday’s “summit”. Democratic Congressmen Becerra then tried to twist things by implicating that Ryan was bashing the CBO. Ryan discretely responded that he wasn’t challenging the CBO but in essence challenging how the bill was structured to hide deficits by double counting and fraudulent offsets. He deftly made the point that Democrats were the ones who wrote this bill with its Bernie Madoff accounting that Ryan said so eloquently.
That studious, fake, intent look and occasional squirming that you saw from President Obama was caused by Paul Ryan bringing to light the treacherous and fraudulent means the Democrats are using to get a government takeover of healthcare. The Democrats have tried to write a bill that evades the Byrd Rule because the key sections of the bill just don’t stand a chance of holding up under the scrutiny of the rule. If Joe Biden tried to overrule the parliamentarian by saying for example that insurance mandates, exchanges, etc., are NOT extraneous, he would not only look like a criminal but completely stupid and incompetent at the same time. The public would perceive Biden as a usurper. This would harm the Obama/Biden White House in the public’s eyes to a degree never before seen in this country that could approach impeachment levels.
I’m exhausted now but have learned a whole lot more about this process. Imagine how exhausted those Senators will be in the unlikely event that Pelosi is able to get a bill passed in the House. I can bet though that the Senate GOP has been writing extensive amendments, preparing to use every tactic, and plotting strategy for weeks now. Call your GOP Senators and thank them for their stand in this fight. Your encouragement will give them the energy to see this through. Keep the pressure on the Democrats who have elections coming up. I am kind of torn. I would like to see the Democrats go through with this so they further damage their party. However, I would like to see the traditions that we have upheld in the Senate that our founders laid out. John McCain was right in this instance, much as I hate to admit McCain is right. Reconciliation used for this big of an issue would be cataclysmic for this country. The rights of the minority party in the Senate would be abolished and the Senate would be dictated by majority rule. This would be great if the GOP was in power (looks quite likely by 2012) but would be awful if the Democrats were. Perilous times we live in.
UPDATE (3/1/2010): Keith Hennessey has released a couple of new posts today that refer back to the excellent posts he wrote in regards to reconciliation last autumn. One is on the challenges of the two bill reconciliation strategy, the other deals with the mechanics of the strategy. One word of warning though. Reading these posts at first blush looks to be a political Vulcan mindmeld. They are very well written but necessarily very extensive so you can get an accurate picture of what the Obama/Pelosi/Reid are trying to accomplish. I have to kind of laugh at the talk coming from the White House, Pelosi and Reid about being able to get something written up and done by Easter. They can accomplish all of this? Get over all these hurdles and muster the votes? This looks just impossible from a practical point of view. However, we can’t let the word impossible bring our guard down. Stay vigilant.