Friday, January 15, 2010

Can the Democrats push through Obamacare before the Massachusetts election is certified?

Last weekend, the story emerged that the Democrats in Massachusetts were planning to slowwalk the certification of the election if Scott Brown wins the Senate election. We'd hear all about how they have to wait 10 days for absentee ballots and yadda, yadda. Meanwhile, they'd rush a vote on their final bill to try to get it done before Brown took his seat.

It might, however, not be so easy for them to stall long enough to get the bill through. Jonathan Karl at ABC explains the logistics and congressional procedure behind all of this.
f Democratic nominee Martha Coakley loses, Democrats in Washington want to be in a position to pass a bill through the Senate before Republican Scott Brown is sworn in and they lose their 60th Senate seat. Under Massachusetts law, the MA Secretary of State must wait “at least” ten days before certifying the results, to give time for absentee and military ballots to be received and counted. That means Brown could be sworn in as early as January 29, leaving Democrats very little time to maneuver … in fact, it may be impossible to get it done in time.

After a final health care deal is struck (and Democrats are hoping that will happen tonight), it goes to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for a cost estimate, a process expected to take 10 days. After that, it will take at least seven days to go through the procedural hurdles to pass the bill in the House and the Senate. That adds up to a vote on February 2 at the earliest.

Bottom line: Unless either 1) the certification in Massachusetts is delayed; or, 2) CBO works much faster than expected, Democrats would be unable to pass a health care bill before losing their 60th vote.
Karl compares the possibility of the Democrats losing this race to Bill Buckner letting the ball go through his legs in that World Series game. Heh.

These difficulties getting the bill passed have led some Democrats to revert back to their idea of pushing it through as part of reconciliation which would only need 51 votes. Allahpundit looks at the possibility of their deciding to push through this tremendously unpopular bill with a questionable parliamentary maneuver. Reconciliation is meant to be only for budget items and not any that contain policy issues. There is no way that anyone can honestly say that changing 1/6 the economy is not a policy matter and only a budgetary change.

Rich Lowry also is skeptical that they'd go the reconciliation route.
There's always reconciliation. If they go that route, they no longer need 60 votes in the Senate. But my understanding is that they would have to send the bill back through committee. It would be a time-consuming process, making it impossible for Obama to do his “pivot” to jobs anytime soon. And a lot of the most popular features of the bill couldn't be included, meaning Democrats would have to pass just the Medicare cuts and tax increases through the House and not lose any votes (again, in an environment where a Democrat lost in Massachusetts in an election defined by health care).
Are the Democrats that suicidally determined to pass this monstrosity of a bill?