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Reconcile THIS

Howard Dean is on the campaign trail. He wants to “kill the bill” (a line right out of the teafolks’ protest signs) and use budget reconciliation to revive the public option.

Through the furor of the past day I am clearer about the public option. It has very little to do with cost controls and everything to do with a symbolic slide to single payer health care. Even the CBO noted that it would have no real market impact, but would actually encourage adverse selection by shifting insureds with health problems into that plan, not because costs would be less, but because claims might be paid more easily than under a private insurance plan. This is not my theory. This is what the CBO said. So that we’re clear.

Okay, well, we all know that reconciled omnibus bills only take 51 to pass. (So, by the way, do conference reports). Here’s how reconciliation plays. Do you feel lucky?

  1. Both Houses pass a resolution authorizing one or more committees with jurisdiction over mandatory spending and revenue policies to make legislative changes. Currently, those committees are:
    • House
      1. Appropriations Committee
        Chairman: David Obey D-WI
        Ranking Member: Jerry Lewis R-CA
      2. Ways and Means Committee
        Chairman: Charles B. Rangel D-NY
        Ranking Member: Dave Camp R-MI
      3. Energy and Commerce Committee
        Chairman – Henry Waxman D-CA
        Ranking Member – Joe Barton R-TX
    • Senate
      1. Finance Committee
        Chair – Max Baucus D-MT
        Ranking Member – Chuck Grassley R-IA
      2. Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
        Chair – Tom Harkin D-IA
        Ranking Member – Mike Enzi R-WY
  2. The Budget Committee is then responsible for combining the bills into an omnibus package along with CBO and Joint Committee on Taxation estimates.

    The Senate Budget Committee chairman is Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota. Ranking member is Judd Gregg, R-NH. The House Budget Committee Chairman is John Spratt. D-SC Ranking Member is Paul Ryan R-WI. Budget committees are not authorized to change legislation sent, but it can invoke certain procedures to bring the legislation into compliance. The House uses a special rule. The Senate has to adopt an amendment on the Senate floor or adopt a motion to recommit the bill with satisfactory language.

  3. Debate is limited to 20 hours and a vote is taken. The measure needs a simple majority to pass.
  4. Conference committees then meet to work out the differences in the bill and agree on a single version of the bill, which is then brought back to each House for a final vote.

I haven’t addressed the Byrd Rule, which requires that all measures included in a reconciliation bill be related to the budget. If there are objections to what is included, the Byrd rule can be invoked, or waived by 60 votes in the Senate.

After a year of hammering out reform bills in these very same committees, Howard Dean thinks it’s somehow a great idea (in an election year) to send it back? REALLY?

From my vantage point, the current hysteria is roughly parallel to some of the strident and inflammatory rhetoric we’re used to hearing from the teapeople. It could be that there is just such a high level of frustration about how narrow this needle is to thread that some venting is happening now, but seriously, can we please step back and think?

If this bill goes to reconciliation, it will be dead, and so will over a million Americans, while we wait another 25 years to try this again. Or not. By then, I’ll be on my way out. It’ll be my kids and grandkids that suffer. Is that really what we want? Really?

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