Thursday, March 25, 2010

Big GOP Triumph. Sort Of.

As you may have heard by now, Republicans have successfully managed to find a successful point of order against the reconciliation patch, thereby knocking out a minor provision of the bill, which means that the House will have to vote once again on whatever final text gets through the Senate.  This will have the following political effect: none.  At all.  It will inconvenience a bunch of Members of the House, however. Or maybe not.

I think, however, this puts the final nail in the coffin of GOP claims about the process.  The Senate parliamentarian, as it turns out, was not just a puppet of the majority party (as Republicans alleged earlier this month); not only did he rule for the Republicans on this issue, but he also ruled that the main bill had to be signed into law before the Senate took up reconciliation, contrary to Democratic plans.  Nor did the Democrats use the Vice President to overrule the parliamentarian (something anticipated by both sides).  In fact, there was basically nothing particularly innovative or out of the ordinary in the entire process, with the only exception that I can think of being the "two bill" idea. 

As long as I'm knocking down Republican claims of Democratic abuse that turned out to be wrong, I might as well note that partisans of both parties were wrong in their expectations that Republicans would keep vote-a-rama going indefinitely.  They're going to wind up forcing about fifty votes, but that's neither unprecedented nor a real attempt to kill the bill by finding a loophole in the prohibition of filibustering a reconciliation bill.  And while I do think Democrats are right that the level of filibustering in this Congress is extraordinary and an abuse of the process, I don't think that Republican efforts to block health care reform are abusive.  Filibustering nominations or bills that one doesn't even oppose is an abuse, and one could argue that filibustering nominations or bills that one only mildly opposes is contrary to the spirit of Senate rules.  Health care reform does not fit those categories, and in my view Republicans have been fully justified in taking full advantage of their rights within Senate rules -- although whether they were smart to do so is another question.

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