Senate Parliamentarian Frumin Could Referee Overhaul Battle
Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin, a veteran master of civil procedure who first joined the office he now leads in 1977, will be center stage if Democrats use a tactic known as budget reconciliation to avoid filibusters as they seek to push through a final health overhaul, The New York Times reports. "As Washington enters the final act of its long-running health care drama, Mr. Frumin - a nonpartisan civil servant who got his start as a precedents writer for the House - is in a starring role. His rulings on arcane procedural questions may determine whether President Obama winds up signing a health care overhaul or whether the administration's signature policy initiative collapses" (Stolberg, 3/13).
The Boston Globe adds, "Frumin labors in relative obscurity as the Senate's chief parliamentarian, a post he has held under both Democratic and Republican majorities. His job: making sure Capitol Hill combatants play by the rules." Frumin will help set the rules for the Democrats' reconciliation plan: "first passing a Senate version of the proposed law in the House and then pushing through a set of repairs to the measure, which must pass both chambers." Despite his bipartisan professional history, "Some Republicans have already accused Frumin of being biased toward Democrats, but most say they have confidence that he will be impartial" (Viser, 3/14).
As the health debate moves forward, "Frumin will decide what Democrats can or cannot put in the bill under the fast-track process called reconciliation, which they plan to use to get around a Republican filibuster," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Whatever he allows in can pass with 51 votes, which Democrats have. What he rules out needs 60 votes, which they don't."
Getting more than a glimpse of the man behind those decisions, however, is unlikely, the Times adds. "Even people who have known him for decades know little more than the bare bones of his personal life. (Attended Colgate University in upstate New York, then Georgetown Law; married lawyer Jill Meryl in 1981, has one daughter, lives in Maryland. ... ) He's also a very slow jogger." His last on-the-record interview was 22 years ago (Fiore and Hook, 3/13).