Archive for reconciliation

Empty Chairs, Empty Heads



In our government, we have a bicameral legislature -- made up of two parts. The House and the Senate. We all knew that. Sorry to recap so early.

And when a bill is proposed, it's ultimately got to get approval of both chambers. Okay, you knew that too.

Most often, a bill goes from one chamber to the next for approval, but there are changes proposed. What you end up with are two versions of the same bill. And to reconcile those differences, a committee of members of both the House and the Senate are picked and conference -- that's the verb usage of that word -- it simply means to negotiate the finer points. A little back and forth, a few votes and presto-digito, a reconciled bill ready for the President to sign. You probably knew that too.

So what don't you know?

Well, for starters, as a last minute (actually with about 32 minutes left in government funding Monday night) the House pushed through an agreement to fund the government, that old, CR thingy they're always talking about, but-- yup, once again there's a but-- the Senate first had to agree to put the funding bill through conference (still a verb).

empty table.

While Eric Cantor and his All-White Band waited, good ol' Harry Reid and his Senate came back to session only to say, "No way, Jose."

Now, let's just consider this for a moment. To conference a bill the size of the national budget, isn't like negotiating for a good deal on a room at a cheap motel, or rental rates on a car. You don't have just a few choices -- you have a whole darn national budget that's supposed to last for a year. I mean with hugeous, ginormous numbers and everything. It would make your iAbacus smoke.

That's got to take some time -- especially when you have two warring tribes like the Republicans (warring with themselves) and then toss in the Democrats who don't agree with either of the two GOP fractions. What do you think? Gotta take a few hours, no?

Just figuring out who is going to sit where takes a day with the Senate and two with the much bigger House, so it's got to take at least that long. Probably a month is a safe estimate. Some of the members have pressing fund-raising to go to, photo ops with Rafael 'Ted' Cruz or Rand Paul, or maybe the new panda cam that's being set up by Time Magazine with stuffed animals -- some concessions to the government shutdown. Oh, that's so cute. Stuffed Panda cam.

Now that you're back from looking at the stuffed animals, you can see that this is a drawn out process. At this rate, and with the votes needed to reconcile the reconciled versions, we're talking conservatively, and the Republicans wouldn't have us talking any other way, two months.

That being the case, shouldn't this have been done months ago? Why didn't they start this earlier?

Patty Murray

Senator Patty Murray. The Patty Murray? The Senate Budget Committee chairperson, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)? So it's all her fault. As the chair, she should have been asking for this six months ago. Somebody needs to talk to her and find out why she hasn't asked a single time for this meeting, this conferencing (verb again) to take place.

What? She did ask. Well if she did and didn't get an answer, why didn't she ask again? It's not like these things just happen on their own.

I suppose there's lots of reasons her request could have gotten lost. Maybe a goat ate it, or Martian's jammed all the text messaging from the Senate floor and it didn't go through. Don't scoff. In a recent Pew Poll, 48% of Republicans say they've suspected Martian interference on their cell calls when talking about their second right amendments. It's a fact.

Oh, wait. You say Senator Murray did ask more than once. Twice? Oh, even more than that? How many times? Eighteen? Jeez, and nobody answered?

I see, they did answer -- right, with 32 minutes left before the shutdown. That just doesn't seem like enough time to make something happen before the money runs out.

There's only one place to turn when you're as confused and I am right now. I need Rachel Maddow to solve this conundrum for me and for you. Please watch.


Hey GOP, killing health care law may not be as easy as it sounds


I heard someone on MSNBC say that Team Romney is trying hard to change the subject from health care reform (which is hurting poor Willard, what with all his Etch A Sketchitude and all) to the economy. They know a bad thing when they see it. Wait. Check that. If that were true, their candidate wouldn't be Romney, but I digress.

Mitch McConnell and his trusty gang of obstructionists have been relentlessly pounding away at repealing the Affordable Care Act in front of every TV camera and microphone they can scrounge up. McConnell suggested that a GOP majority in the Senate would try to repeal the individual mandate through reconciliation. That only requires 51 votes as opposed to the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

But according to The Hill, even if Republicans do well in November, a repeal would be "a tall order." They quote Romney during the GOP debates as saying, “We can get rid of it with 51 votes." Not so fast, Willard:

But Martin Gold, who served as a floor adviser to then-Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), said the court’s tax distinction probably won’t make the difference... Gold, now a partner at Covington & Burling, said the biggest question is whether repealing the mandate is primarily about the budget.

Reconciliation bills must affect the deficit, and their predominant impact has to be fiscal. A bill that is mostly intended to make a policy change, but carries some incidental economic impact, isn’t eligible for reconciliation.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the individual mandate will generate about $4 billion per year for the federal government. Although Republicans have seized on the mandate as a tax increase since the court ruled last Thursday, they have spent years attacking it primarily as an encroachment on liberty. [...]

Democrats’ last budget resolution said reconciliation could be used only to reduce the deficit, Gold said, but Republicans could eliminate that requirement in their own budget. 

Then, in the Senate, once a reconciliation bill came to the floor, Democrats could challenge specific provisions. They could say, for example, that any savings from repealing certain parts of the healthcare law would only be incidental. If they won those challenges, those parts of the law would remain in place.

It's messy, no matter how easy those on the right try to make "repeal and replace" sound. Not to mention they have yet to come up with anything feasible to replace this health care plan with one of their own. Nice try, GOP.


Video of the Day- Queen Elizabeth, ex-IRA leader share historic handshake


Wow, this is a huge deal. I'm sure my Mom and Nana never could imagine it happening.

LONDON -- In a meeting symbolizing the end of years of enmity between British rule and Northern Ireland republicans, Queen Elizabeth shook hands Wednesday with a former Irish Republican Army commander.

Martin McGuinness, now a deputy first minister of Northern Ireland and a member of the pro-republican Sinn Fein party, was a senior IRA member in the years of sectarian violence. During that time, the group was responsible for blowing up the yacht of Lord Louis Mountbatten, the queen's cousin, killing him and three others while they vacationed off the coast of Northern Ireland in 1979.

The once unthinkable handshake took place away from media eyes -- apart from one camera crew -- behind closed doors at a charity arts event in Belfast, witnessed by the queen’s husband, Prince Philip, and leading politicians including Irish President Michael Higgins and Northern Ireland’s first minister, Peter Robinson.

The seemingly mundane greeting was widely heralded as a turning point. Peter Sheridan, host of the event, told reporters, "It's a huge act of reconciliation, you cannot underestimate how important this is."


Karl Rove: Simple Majority Could Repeal Health Care Law


I hate to quote Karl Rove, who was against reconciliation (which only requires 51 votes instead of the usual 60) before he was for it, but...

"Under reconciliation the Senate Budget Committee could instruct the Senate Finance Committee to reduce mandatory spending on insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion. These two items make up more than 90% of spending in ObamaCare. All the changes from all the committees are then bundled into one measure and voted upon. Because reconciliation is protected by the rules of the budget process, it doesn't take 60 votes to bring it up and it requires only a simple majority to pass."

Um, that's ObamaCares. With an S, fathead.