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).
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?
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.