The President will sign the health care legislation at an 11am ceremony. After that, Senate work will begin on the reconciliation sidecar, and last night, the Senate’s parliamentarian, Alan Frumin, delivered a victory that shut down efforts to throw out or delay the bill.
First, Republicans tried to claim that the reconciliation bill, in an extremely roundabout way (think a game of “Telephone”), affects the Social Security Trust Fund, contrary to reconciliation rules. But Frumin ruled against that. This specifically impacts the excise tax on high-end insurance companies, which the GOP said somehow connected to the trust fund.
Seemingly then, the Senate will be able to begin work today on the reconciliation bill. With only 20 hours of debate mandated by law, you’d think this could wrap up quickly, but you would be wrong.
Republicans were already planning to deploy parliamentary maneuvers and offer a cascade of amendments in an effort to drag out debate.
“No more tax hikes. No more Medicare cuts. No more deal-making,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday. “Democrats may have won their vote last night, but they lost the argument.”
It is not clear how much appetite Republicans will have for limitless amendments. Conservatives such as Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) have threatened an onslaught, but other Republicans may have second thoughts about high-profile delaying tactics. A senior GOP strategist said most senators probably lacked the stamina to drag the process into the weekend.
Democrats are prepared to whip against every amendment (and labor will help them, according to an AFL-CIO spokesman), to preserve the bill and avoid having to go back to the House afterwards for an additional vote. However, Republicans are expected to raise multiple points of order to throw pieces of the bill out as contrary to the Byrd rule, and it’s virtually certain that at least one of those will succeed. It’s just very difficult to create a bulletproof reconciliation bill. So one more vote in the House is likely.
This nugget is also interesting (talk about burying the lede):
Republicans are also expected to offer amendments designed to force Democrats to take politically awkward votes. For example, they could propose adding a government insurance program — the “public option” that most Democrats support but was dropped to the dismay of their liberal base.
We could finally see an up-or-down vote on the public option because of Republicans. And a labor official told me they won’t score any amendments, presumably including such a public option vote.
Meanwhile, not that I’m doing an official whip count, but Ben Nelson said he would vote against the reconciliation bill. However, Mary Landrieu and Evan Bayh said they’d probably vote for it, so I cannot see how Democrats mess it up. They have the votes for passage.
UPDATE: Tom Coburn seems to think that the bill was well-crafted and none of the challenges will work. It won’t stop him from bringing up the challenges, I gather.