Reconciliation Roadblock? Parliamentarian May Derail Preferred Dem Timeline

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A report in Roll Call contains some unwelcome news for Democrats:

“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,” the article reads.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s spokesman Don Stewart confirms this to me: “The Senate Parliamentarian’s office has informed Senate Republicans that reconciliation instructions require the measure to make changes in law,” Stewart said.Translated: the reconciliation bill, which would amend the Senate health care bill, will likely be on hold in the Senate until the President signs the latter into law. Assuming the ruling is made official, it could be overturned by the Senate chair–likely Vice President Joe Biden–but there’s little-to-no precedent for such a maneuver.

That could unnerve some House Democrats, many of whom don’t want the Senate bill signed into law until after the reconciliation bill has been passed by both the House and Senate. They worry that the Senate won’t be able to follow through with its promise to pass a reconciliation bill, and that the result will be that the Senate health care bill will become law without any changes.

Nevertheless, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent McConnell a sternly worded letter this afternoon, vowing to press ahead with reconciliation anyhow. Perhaps that will put House Democrats’ minds at ease.

Reid’s office had no comment on this story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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