An ambiguity in Conrad’s message that he needs to eliminate

Here is a video clip of Sen. Kent Conrad on Face the Nation yesterday stating forcefully that reconciliation cannot be used to pass comprehensive health care reform, because it it was “designed” to be used for the limited purpose of reducing deficits in an already passed bill. But, as I’ve mentioned before, I detect an uncertainty of meaning in his words. He speaks of how reconciliation would properly be used, and says “it would be unreasonable” to use it to pass a major bill such as Obamacare. The problem with phrases such as, “it was designed for,” “it would be used for,” “it would be unreasonable to use it for,” is that there is nothing that necessarily stops the Senate from doing something that contradicts the original design of reconciliation if the senators choose to do so, and there is nothing that necessarily stops the Senate from doing something unreasonable if the senators choose to do so. So, the relevant question is not whether reconciliation was designed only for making budgetary changes in existing bills, or whether it would be unreasonable to use reconciliation to pass a major bill, but whether there is any rule preventing the Senate from using reconciliation to pass a major bill. And, according to Conrad himself, there is such a rule—the Byrd Rule. At another point in the same interview, he says (here is transcript):

[Reconciliation] will not work because of the Byrd rule which says anything that doesn’t score for budget purposes has to be eliminated. That would eliminate all the delivery system reform, all the insurance market reform, all of those things the experts tell us are really the most important parts of this bill.

So, if Conrad is trying to get across the message to his fellow Democrats that reconciliation is an absolute impossibility and that they should drop the idea, then he should stop describing it as “unworkable” or “unreasonable” and instead say, “We can’t use reconciliation for this purpose even if we unreasonably want to use it, because the Senate rules prohibit it.”

Indeed, perhaps the reason the Democrats have been strangely ignoring Conrad’s repeated remarks on this point all year is that he himself has been stating the issue in relative rather than absolute terms. It goes against a liberal’s grain to speak of absolutes.

- end of initial entry -

Kathlene writes:

Today’s ultra-liberal-leftists don’t care about tradition and pesky Congressional rules (unless of course the rules are favorable to them). This article at the far left Talking Points Memo gives you some idea of how far they’re willing to go to get what they want (emphases mine):

…. a major whip effort will have to be deployed. [Note from Kathlene: this is in reference to the 216 votes needed to pass the Senate bill in the House. Due to four vacancies in the House, House members are down to 431, so the Dems are hoping to pass the Health bill by a 216-215 margin.]

Separately, there’s the question of how dramatically the Senate bill can be tweaked through the reconciliation process. Unless Democrats are willing to play some serious hardball, the reconciliation process will limit what they are allowed to pass. Changes to the tax provisions can likely be changed, as can many things that impact federal spending and revenue.

But that means other major, controversial issues like immigration and abortion will remain untouched—at least for now—and that will have a major impact on whether Pelosi can cobble together the votes she needs.

We’ll be looking for movement on both of those fronts in the weeks ahead.

If you look at the health articles at this website, you’ll see that the talk is about exploring just how far the rules can be bent to pass the Health bill. Now is not the time for conservatives to be complacent. The Leftists will be playing hardball.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 01, 2010 02:08 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):