Ilovebenefits’s Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

The Will of the People or the Will of Congress?

Editor’s note: The people of this country need to take heed. What this article says, is that if the citizens of this country, over the course of the next month, persuade their Congress (it is ours afterall) that health reform that doesn’t cover everyone, that costs more and more taxes, doesn’t cut costs in the short term or the long term isn’t something they prefer, the Congress has another plan to enact ITS will, not the will of the people.

———————-

With Health Care Talks Uncertain, Democrats Consider a Last Resort

By CARL HULSE
2 August 2009
The New York Times
WASHINGTON — With bipartisan health care negotiations teetering, Democrats are talking reluctantly — and very, very quietly — about exploiting a procedural loophole they planted in this year’s budget to skirt Republican filibusters against a health care overhaul.

They are talking reluctantly because using the tactic, officially known as reconciliation, would present a variety of serious procedural and substantive obstacles that could result in a piecemeal health bill. And they are whispering because the mere mention of reconciliation touches partisan nerves and could be viewed as a threat by the three Republicans still engaged in the delicate talks, causing them to collapse.

Yet with the discussions so far failing to produce an agreement, Democrats are exploring whether they could use the tactic as a last resort to secure a health care victory if they have to go it alone. The answer: It would not be pretty and it would not be preferable, but it could be doable.

”This is tough stuff,” said Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Budget Committee, ”but, yes, it is more than theoretically possible.”

Mr. Conrad, who is one of the Democrats bargaining with Republicans, has been advising that fashioning a health care plan under byzantine reconciliation rules is a bad idea. From his perspective, a major impediment is the fact that the plans devised by the Senate finance and health panels would have to produce $2 billion in savings over five years and not add to the deficit after that.

Considering the upfront costs of trying to bring all Americans under the health insurance umbrella, and the fact that some of the structural health care changes that lawmakers are eyeing might not produce immediate savings, the deficit rules could severely limit the scope of a bill.

”You would have a very difficult time getting universal coverage in reconciliation,” Mr. Conrad said.

And that is just the beginning. Under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, reconciliation bills were given special Senate protection and allowed to pass by simple majority votes, after limited debate, to give senators the ability to make the kinds of tough decisions required to cut the deficit.

At the same time, Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia and longtime protector of the prerogatives of the Senate, created a complex set of rules intended to impede those who would dare to use reconciliation to rewrite federal policy rather than produce budget savings.

Under the Byrd Rule, provisions where the fiscal consequences are ”merely incidental” to the true intent of the legislation can be struck from the bill unless 60 senators vote to waive the rule. Reconciliation measures are traditionally scoured for such provisions, in what is known around the Senate as giving the bill a ”Byrd bath.”

Because Republicans would most likely be so incensed that Democrats were trying to force through a sweeping health plan by simple majority vote, they would no doubt challenge many elements of the bill and could strip them out.

”Most of the big public policy stuff, which is really important, would not survive the Byrd Rule,” said Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the senior Republican on the Budget Committee and someone who could be counted on to use his expertise to make reconciliation as difficult as possible for Democrats.

But there is a potential way around the Byrd Rule as well. Democrats are envisioning an unusual two-track approach. Under this strategy, some of the most contentious elements of the health plan — new taxes and fees as well as savings from Medicare, Medicaid and other federal programs — would be packaged in one bill that could be passed by a simple majority.

A second measure would contain the policy changes and program expansions and would be treated like an ordinary bill, subject to filibuster and amendment. But the thinking is that this legislative sidecar would contain enough popular programs to attract the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Voila — a health care bill.

Of course, there are still potential pitfalls, including this one: If some senators are angry that the first bill squeaks through, they might not want to cooperate in providing help to pass the second one, whether they like it or not.

Democrats and other experts looking into the process acknowledge that it would require advanced legislative acrobatics. But they believe it could and should be done if there is no alternative.

”If the only way to get it done is in reconciliation and you could get a bill worth doing, then that is fine,” said James R. Horney of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning research organization.

When they gave themselves the authority to do it in the budget approved last spring, Democrats left the door open for just such an approach. And with an Oct. 15 deadline to file legislation drawing closer, reconciliation is moving back into play.

”I’ve said from the beginning,” said William Hoagland, a former budget expert for Senate Republicans who now works for a health insurer, ”this was their insurance policy for health reform.”

Advertisements

August 3, 2009 - Posted by | Federal Government, healthcare | ,

1 Comment »

  1. Republicans and Democrats have been bickering over ideological lines for eons, and they will for eons to come.

    But if we’re ever going to have a new health care system that truly meets the needs of the people, every House member and U.S. senator will have to shed their party identity and then tear apart the pieces to the proposed legislation and reassemble it.

    One thing is certain: the current legislation under consideration will do more harm to the American public than good, and it behooves every citizen to educate themselves about the issues and let their elected representative know what they think. That much is as clear as party lines.

    Comment by revelationtoo | August 3, 2009 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: