Democrats’ Health Bill Plans Could Hinge On Parliamentarian’s Ruling
Roll Call: After initially indicating "the Senate-passed health reform bill must be signed into law before Congress acts on companion reconciliation legislation, the Senate Parliamentarian has acknowledged that there are perhaps ways to draft a reconciliation measure that could move first." But, if Democrats choose to pursue this approach, "they likely would have to narrow the scope of the reconciliation bill." The Parliamentarian has noted that moving a broad reconciliation measure without the Senate measure first being signed into law "could create challenging procedural hurdles for Senate Democrats." This week, Senate GOP leadership received word from the Parliamentarian's office that "reconciliation instructions require any reconciliation bill to make changes in law. The parliamentarian's office is standing by this advice, according to Senate aides" (Drucker, 3/12)
The Hill: The Democrats' plan for passing the health overhaul was called into question when the Senate parliamentarian said yesterday that President Obama must first sign into law the Senate-passed health bill before the senators could consider separate legislation that would alter it on behalf of House members" (Bolton, 3/11).
CBS News: "Democrats were planning on bypassing Republican obstruction -- as well as reaching a compromise on the legislation within their own party -- with a multi-step process: The House would pass the health care bill already approved by the Senate. Then, both the House and Senate would pass a 'fix it' bill that would amend the Senate bill. The 'fix it' bill would pass the Senate via a process called reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes." Yesterday's ruling "could foil Democrats' plans to avoid signing into law the 'sweetheart deals' that have tainted the Senate bill" (Condon, 3/11).
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans touted the parliamentarian's ruling Thursday, but House Democrats say it will not affect their plans, since they have different rules from the Senate, CongressDaily reports. "That includes a rule that would declare the Senate bill passed upon passage of the reconciliation package, in effect helping House Democrats avoid an uncomfortable vote on the Senate-passed bill." A Democratic aide "then said the president would sign the Senate-passed bill before the Senate votes on reconciliation. It would appear that could cause a problem with House members who distrust the Senate to actually pass the reconciliation bill, but the aide said the House is good with proceeding that way" (Edney and Friedman, 3/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.