The New York Times offers a strong hint that Democrats in the Senate will use the budget reconciliation process as a cover to move ObamaCare through the chamber to avoid a filibuster. The Democrats will “go it alone,” the headline reads, although the actual report makes the how of that rather ambiguous. And well it should, since the Democrats know — or should know — that to try reconciliation would be an invitation to a war that would bring Congress to a screeching halt...
In fact, the article never mentions the word “reconciliation,” the process by which the Senate approves a budget for the federal government. Under the rules of reconciliation, no cloture vote is needed, as the chamber has a Constitutional duty to produce a budget. Some Democrats have threatened this for months, notably Chuck Schumer, but the plan has a couple of big flaws. First, the Democrats have to convince the Senate parliamentarian, ostensibly non-partisan, to agree that the bill is primarily budgetary. No one in their right mind could honestly make that judgment about massive regulation of 15% of the American economy. They’re likely to get denied before they even get started.
However, if they do manage to get past that obstacle, the Republicans can shut down the Senate for the next year. Those unfamiliar with the parliamentary procedure may not realize that a great many steps get skipped by unanimous consent. Bill-reading is just one example. One Senator can force each and every bill to be read aloud at every appearance it makes on the Senate floor, including when they are sent to committee. For ObamaCare and cap-and-trade, one bill reading could take a week, keeping the Senate floor locked off from any other business.
Traditionally, Senators give each other the courtesy of unanimous consent to allow business to proceed at a normal pace. If the Democrats try to force ObamaCare through reconciliation, that unanimous consent will dissipate faster than an Obama expiration date. It won’t take the entire Republican caucus to gum up the works, either; it only takes a single objection to end unanimous consent, and the GOP has more than a couple of conservative firebrands who will gladly toss sand in the gears to stop Harry Reid from steamrolling them.
Democrats might think that this will gain them sympathy with the public, but not if they’re breaking rules to pass an increasingly unpopular and intrusive piece of legislation. It will create a firestorm of anger even worse than what we’ve seen in the townhalls thus far. They would be signing their way to minority status, especially in the House. They can kiss the rest of their agenda goodbye for the rest of this session, too, including cap-and-trade. Even budgeting will prove very difficult.
There’s a reason the Times didn’t mention reconciliation. It’s a bluff. Not even Harry Reid is this foolish.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I Sure Hope He's Right