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Wednesday, February 17, 2010


With the White House health care summit slated for next week, Republicans have been vocalizing concerns over the genuineness of many Democrats and of the President’s willingness to come to bipartisan agreement.

Yesterday, Roll Call’s David M. Drucker wrote, “Senate Democrats say they see no need to abandon the idea of using reconciliation to pass health care reform this year just because President Barack Obama has scheduled a bipartisan summit next week to try to break the impasse on Capitol Hill.”

With many Democratic Senators already opposing reconciliation, it faces other challenges. Robert Dove, who a chief Senate parliamentarian for over a decade, told listeners on a Galen Institute conference call that reconciliation would be a tough road. Both in terms of procedural hurdles and of content, there are challenges at every turn.

Democrats would need to meet many 60 vote thresholds to overrule the parliamentarian should he, for example, rule any provision out of order because it is not related to the budget. The parliamentarian has the (mainly subjective) power to rule any provisions as "incidental" and strike it should the provision be aimed at creating new policy. And now the Democrats former 60 vote majority is gone.

To get an idea how serious the parliamentarian is at striking incidental provisions, The Hill writes “Dove oversaw some budget reconciliation measures in his time and, he notes, ruled out around 300 provisions from a 1995 budget reconciliation bill.”

Complicating matters further, in the letter inviting Republicans to the summit next week, the President stated that he intended to have any bill under discussion available online prior to the meeting. Although this would likely mean the Democrats would post a bill that worked out the House and Senate differences, the White House did not rule out submitting its own new bill.

With the renewed push brought on by next week’s summit, the possibility of comprehensive health care restructuring remains complicated, but is far from dead.

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