This all relates to the discussion sparked I suppose by Tuesday's debate about whether Republicans would be able to use reconciliation to pass ACA repeal. Sarah Kliff has an excellent rundown of why it would be difficult under standard procedures, including the important point that since reconciliation requires a budget to be passed first, there's obviously no way that reconciliation could be passed quickly. But as she points out, others are speculating that Republicans wouldn't respect standard procedures. Jonathan Chait speculates:
The only thing keeping a party from using reconciliation to pass non-budget things is the Senate parliamentarian. By social custom, the parliamentarian’s rules are always followed. When he struck some parts from the Democrats’ reconciliation bill, they abided his ruling. But Republicans could decide to use reconciliation to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act, and when the parliamentarian rules against them, simply overrule him.Or, as Kliff says, Republicans could just hire a parliamentarian who will give them the rulings that they want.
That would leave us with something a lot like Superbill!, right? A bill that would (more or less) be available once a year and that could contain anything, and only needed a simple majority. It would still be tied to the budget process, which in my conception the Leadership bill wouldn't be, and there might be differences in how amendments are handled, but still -- Superbill! is a souped-up reconciliation bill, and that's what we're speculating about here.
Would that, as Chait says, "essentially...end the filibuster"? In my view, no, not at all. In a narrowly divided Senate, the need to fit everything into one bill is going to be a serious constraint on the majority party, because they might lose different Senators over different provisions. And anything not included would be subject to the normal legislative process. What might happen, however, is that the threat to include something in Superbill! might help get it through the legislative process even if it's not included. That is, if the 55-Senator majority party has, say, 53 solid votes for a bill, they might be able to cut a deal with the minority party, which could settle for bargaining down the size or scope of the bill in return for not including it in Superbill! (and the majority might be happy to do so, because it wouldn't want to lose two votes from its final Superbill! vote). And of course a bill with a sub-60 majority but little intense support would probably still not be folded into the Leadership bill anyway.
That is, reconciliation weakens but doesn't destroy the filibuster, and a stronger reconciliation would further weaken the filibuster but would not, I don't think, create a true majority-party-rules Senate.
What all this means, as I said over at Salon, is that people who really care about the Senate -- and especially those who don't want a future reformed Senate that looks like the current reformed House -- should get to work now on a well-designed Leadership bill or a sliding scale that would really work or some other means of moving from the current disaster of a system to one that could actually work.