Thursday March 11, 2010

Parliamentarian: No Reconciliation Until after Senate Health Bill Passed

By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, DC, March 11, 2010 ( – Senior GOP sources cited by Roll Call Thursday said that Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin has ruled that the controversial reconciliation procedure can only be used to push through a bill of health care “fixes” after the president has signed the main Senate health bill into law.

The Parliamentarian’s office was responding to an inquiry from Republican leadership.

To relieve mistrust brewing between Senate Democrats and their House counterparts, who are being pressured to pass the Senate measure whole and unamended, some strategists had floated the option of first passing legislation in both chambers, through the process of reconciliation, that would act as a package of fixes favorable to House Democrats.

The decision of the parliamentarian, who is the official interpreter of Senate rules, eliminates that option – meaning the House would have to pass the Senate bill with no guarantees. This puts further strain on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s quest to gain the confidence of enough conservative Democrats to push the bill through.

However, the decision did not preclude the possibility of using reconciliation to offer a fix package after the Senate bill’s success – which appears to be the option more favored by Senate Democrats and the White House.

Yet several lawmakers have expressed wariness over vows from top Democrats that a “sweetening” package would in fact follow as promised. Earlier this month, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, suggested that the House should OK the Senate measure after receiving a “blood oath” that senators would pass such a package later.

But Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.,) one of a group of Democrat House lawmakers holding out against the bill, indicated that such “blood oaths” would not suffice.

“If they say ‘we’ll give you a letter saying we’ll take care of this later,’ that’s not acceptable because later never comes,” Stupak told The Weekly Standard Tuesday.

See related coverage:

Stupak: I Don’t Buy Promises for Later Abortion-Funding ‘Fix’ to Health Bill

NRLC: Vote for Health Bill ‘a Career-Defining Pro-abortion Vote’


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