As with all things relating to the Zombie Bill From Hell (I refer of course to Obamacare; I’d link to the bill under discussion at the moment, but, you know, there isn’t one), this must be taken with a grain of salt, but if true, this certainly seems promising. According to Roll Call:
The Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that President Barack Obama must sign Congress’ original health care reform bill before the Senate can act on a companion reconciliation package, senior GOP sources said Thursday.
Let’s review the state of play: in November, the Democrat-controlled House shat out its version of the wretched Obamacare effluvium, which, to be fair, at least included Bart Stupak’s amendment to bar federal funds from being used for abortions, but does include the awful “public option” which is simply a way to describe the destruction the private insurance market in pretty legislative-ese.
After “passage” in the House – pun intended – this prime example of maggot-ridden legislative excreta slimed its way into the chambers of the “world’s greatest deliberative body” which promptly undertook to digest and expel the bill by the only means possible – via an orgy of bribery and corruption that shocked the consciences of normal citizens but was described to me by the arrogant twerp who answers the phones in Senator Carl Levin’s office as “the democratic process at work.” If you’re disappointed to discover that the “Democratic Process” now seems to include such dirty legislative whoring as the now-immortalized “Cornhusker Kickback” and the “Louisiana Purchase,” not to mention “Gator-aid,” well, join the club. Even my own state of Michigan got a bit of a kickback thrown in, thanks to the aforementioned Levin and the horrifying Debbie Stabenow. Perhaps we could refer to their little deal as the “Blue Cross Buyout.” It should also be noted that the Democrat leadership of the Senate was forced to engage in this raw political prostitution in order to hold together their much-vaunted 60-seat “filibuster-proof” majority. The pièce de résistance of this particular legislative stool sample was the fact that it was forced out of the impacted colon of the Senate on Christmas Eve, as a smelly, disease infested “Christmas present for the American people.”
The end result of this disgusting display was a pile from the senate Senate significantly different from the loaf pinched off by the House. Of course, for a bill to become a law, both houses of Congress must pass legislation in the exact same form before it can be sent off to the President for his signature. (The process is laid out in the US Constitution if anyone cares about that old thing anymore.) This posed a problem for the statists who make up the leadership of the Democrat party, as the two houses had passed fundamentally incompatible bills. The House had included the public option in order to assuage the insane liberal caucus of their party, but the provision was removed from the Senate version, along with the Stupak abortion language. These were pretty big hurdles for the contemptible Democrat leaders in the respective houses to overcome, but considering that the political left in the United States has been drooling over the possibility of subjugating the entire population under a government health care regime for the better part of a half-century, and also taking into account that our current president is a rigid leftist ideologue, there was little doubt that they could get the job done in the end.
While all this was going on in Washington, there was the minor issue of the election of a replacement for the dear departed Edward M. Kennedy, longtime Massachusetts senator and official Drunken Jackass of Congress. Up until, say, November, it appeared that the race would go to Standard Massachusetts Leftist Martha Coakley. But then a funny thing happened – the idiots in the House passed Obamacare, which caused Coakley’s opponent to pick up a little momentum, and then the mouth breathers in the Senate passed Obamacare, which created even more momentum for Coakley’s opponent. And then on January 11, Coakley’s opponent absolutely smoked her in a debate in which he declared that the Senate seat in question was “… not the Kennedy seat and it’s not the Democrat’s seat. It’s the people’s seat.” Is was no looking back from that point, and thus did Senator Scott Brown become the Obamacare saga’s deus ex machina.
With the election of Brown (who had campaigned on a promise to be the 41st vote against the atrocious Obamacare plans), the Democrats seemed to be screwed. They needed a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate in order to pass whatever pile of crap came out of a conference committee with the House, which would be necessary considering that the insane liberal caucus in the House would never vote for the no-public-option Senate bill and the awful Senate Dems weren’t in a conciliatory mood regarding Bart Stupak’s pro-life language in the House Bill. With Brown taking over for Kennedy, the filibuster-proof majority was gone, leading many to say that health care reform was dead, seeing as how the “nuclear option” of using the Senate’s budget reconciliation process to pass this major landmark legislation was simply unacceptable. Such leading lights of the Senate as the author of the rule creating reconciliation had said that to do such a thing would be an abuse of Senate procedure. Aside from which there was the little matter of poll after poll showing that the American people hated the legislation. So the smart thing for the Dems to do would be just to drop the whole thing, pretend it never happened, and try as hard as possible to minimize the anger of the electorate before the midterm elections, which were starting to show signs of being a 1994-style wave election for the Republicans.
Unfortunately, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama aren’t smart people. They decided to… I think this would be to triple-down on enacting this legislative colostomy bag. Obama organized a “summit” at Blair House that ended up proving that Republicans have both legitimate major critiques of Obamacare, legitimate gripes about the process, and legitimate plans of their own to fix the health care system. It also contributed to the meteoric rise of Paul Ryan as a conservative superstar.
The natural thing to do at this point would be for the Dems to stop shooting themselves in the foot. But remember, we’re talking about zombie legislation being pushed by mini-tyrants on an ideological power trip. Ain’t nothing natural about it. So why not quadruple-down on the whole mess and try to cram Obamacare down America’s gullet via reconciliation?
Of course, this would involve a whole bunch of legislative shenanigans that make the whole process about as transparent as the crust of the Earth. But no matter! The bill must be passed so we can find out what’s in it! And so the whole corrupt bunch of “leaders” in the House and Senate have been huddling together to try to come up with some sort of parliamentary trickery that would allow the House to pass the Senate version of the bill with an assurance that the Senate would come back to “fix” the bill via the reconciliation process in some bizarre way. Hell, they’re even trying to come up with a way to allow the bill to “pass” the House without actually being voted on by the House. Yuval Levin at NRO notes:
Democratic leaders should be asking themselves just how they have gotten to the point that their strategy is to amend a law that doesn’t exist yet by passing a bill without voting on it.
Indeed. And this is where Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin comes into play with his ruling. If Frumin has ruled as reported, that would mean that the House would have to vote on the Senate bill before the Senate acts on a reconciliation bill to “fix” the original bill. Considering that the House trusts the Senate about as far as they can throw it, that makes passage of Obamacare in the House that much more difficult. It was already nearly impossible, which is why the Dems have been looking to the abominable but appropriately named Congresswoman Louise Slaughter to craft the “House votes by not voting” option mentioned above. A sampling of pundit reaction, starting with Daniel Foster at NRO:
“Game Changer” is quickly replacing the various iterations of “under the bus” as the most overused political cliche of our age, but this certainly qualifies as one. And it leaves House Democrats with little but the fig leaf of the “Slaughter Rule” as political coverage.
So there you have it, House Democrats. Once you vote for the Senate bill, Obama will sign it, the Left will declare victory, and who knows if reconcilliation will ever happen. This confirms that the Democratic leadership has once again been hiding the ball and not leveling with either their own members or with the public about the procedural aspects of the bill. It will certainly not help to calm the nerves of House Democrats, who already suspect the “fix” is in and that they are being trapped into voting for the noxious Senate bill — Cornhusker Kickback and all.
Summing Up the Past 24 Hours: The Congressional Hispanic Caucus makes a demand that already derailed healthcare reform once. The Congressional Black Caucus complains that Obama isn’t listening to them. The co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus announces that the President’s stumping across the country isn’t doing a lick of good. The Stupak Twelve announce that there will be no deal. And now the Parliamentarian makes it that much harder to get wavering Congressmen on board.
Stick a fork in it.
House Democrats do not trust the Senate; they do not want to pass the Senate bill–with all the special deals in it–and hope the Senate will fix these problems and others later. Even Democrat Michael Capuano of Massachusetts is expressing very grave concerns about passing the Senate bill unamended.
If this report is true, the parliamentarian’s ruling seems to nix the “Slaughter Solution,” whereby the House would deem the Senate bill passed only after the reconciliation bill is passed by both the House and the Senate.
So where do Democrats go from here? One possibility is that Harry Reid will fire the Senate parliamentarian.
If Democrats really think they can get away with such a heavy-handed move in the first place, they might as well replace the parliamentarian with Rahm Emanuel and kill two birds with one stone.
And, to round things out, Eeyorepundit:
I’ll level with you. I think this is huge, but the procedural chicanery has gotten so convoluted that I can’t be sure anymore. Could mean nothing.
Allah also notes the possibility that all of this could be rendered moot by a raw exercise of political power on the part of that smirking jackass who lives at the Naval Observatory, but that would call down the thunder from the sky, methinks. But hey, aren’t they already doing that by considering the Slaughter option?
All this to say, America may have just dodged a bullet, and we may owe the Senate parliamentarian a huge debt of gratitude when this is all over. It’s not over yet, but we may be a bit closer tonight.