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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Fight To Block House Reconciliation Bill Starts In The Senate

While Barack Obama prepares to sign the Senate's version of Obamacare into law, the battle now begin in the Senate as they prepare to vote, using reconciliation (meaning Dems only need 51 votes) and Republicans are challenging many of the provisions in the language used by the House of Representatives to write the "fixes" measure.

Not all the challenges will be accepted by the Senate parliamentarian Alan Frumin, but if any of those challenges are accepted and agreed to by Frumin, the Senate would have to remove them and send it back to the House for another vote. Something the House does not wish to do.

Democratic leaders are also asking Democratic Senators to not offer their own amendments to change the bill in any way and to not vote in favor of any amendments the Republicans offer.

Via The Politico:

But they’re bracing for other potential defections from their ranks. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington is one of a handful of Democrats who did not sign a letter last week to House Democrats committing to an up-or-down vote on the reconciliation bill “without delay.” A Cantwell aide signaled Monday that the senator has not ruled out offering amendments to the bill this week.

Some moderates, such as Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who is in danger of losing her seat in November’s election, are upset over the use of the reconciliation procedure, which requires only a simple majority. An aide said Lincoln won’t offer amendments this week, but she could defect on other votes, as could Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who is opposed to the reconciliation bill.

And Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) wouldn’t commit to keeping the bill free of amendments, saying he’d take each vote “one by one.”

A little background here for those just starting to take an interest in the Obamacare battle.

The House wrote and passed, via a very partisan party line vote, a liberal version of the Obamacare bill that they then sent to the Senate, who could not obtain the 60 votes needed to pass it.

The Senate then crafted their own bill, a slightly less liberal version, wheeling and dealing to obtain enough Democratic votes to pass the bill, which then was sent back to the House.

Originally, House Democrats called the Senate bill completely unacceptable and claimed they would never vote for it.

So, Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders wrote the reconciliation bill, telling House liberals to pass the Senate's version, then pass the reconciliation bill which would add back into the bill the very provisions the Senate initially stripped out of it because Harry Reid could not get enough of his own party members to vote for the liberal House version.

The Senate's version passed the House with a vote of 219-212 and the reconciliation bill passed the House with a vote of 220 to 211 and sent the Senate's version of Obamacare to Obama to sign today and the reconciliation bill back to the Senate to try to pass the items that the senate initially rejected.

Caught up?

More from The Politico:

After the White House signing ceremony Tuesday, the Senate plans to launch into the debate over the reconciliation bill, which would institute a series of “fixes” that House Democrats demanded as a condition for clearing the Senate version of the bill. Even if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) succeeds in keeping his team largely united to beat back GOP amendments, Senate parliamentarian Alan Frumin could throw a wrench in the process.

Frumin is considering a series of GOP challenges contending that provisions in the reconciliation bill violate the Byrd rule — named after its author, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) — which prohibits the inclusion of measures that lack a budgetary impact. If Frumin agrees with the GOP and the Senate’s presiding officer does not overrule him, Democrats would almost certainly lack the 60 votes needed to override Frumin’s decision.

That would require that Democrats either dump the reconciliation bill or pass a modified version that would be sent back to the House for further modification or final approval. To be clear, the House does not want to touch health care again this year, which is why Democratic leaders need to reject every GOP amendment.

“The thing that concerns me is the unknown,” a Senate Democratic aide said Monday.

The idea here is for Republicans to offer amendments that are popular with the American people and force the Democrats to explain themselves in voting against a popular measure while voting for measures the majority of Americans are already against in multiple polls conducted my a variety of polling organizations.

The Senate is not the only place the battle continues to rage, the battle will now be taken to the courts as 12 separate state's Attorneys General are now filing lawsuits against the federal government on constitutionality of the version of Obamacare that Barack Obama just signed.