Did the Senate Parliamentarian just save the day?

Rick Moran
His name is Alan Frumin and he may be the hinge upon which the door to nationalized health care is slammed shut.

Frumin occupies a formerly obscure position in the senate, serving as parliamentarian to that body. It's his jobs to interpret the rules of the senate to insure that one side or the other does not take unfair advantage by skirting requirements for legislative debate and germaneness.

Right now, he may be the only person standing in the way of the Democrat's push to ram nationalized health care through to victory.

The Democrat's scheme to use reconciliation in order to placate House members who don't like several aspects of the bill the senate passed in the dead of night last December, has raised a couple of serious questions about parliamentary procedure. What the Democrats wanted to do was use reconciliation in both the House and Senate to push through amendments to the original senate bill before the House voted on it.

It's convoluted and counterintiuitive but made necessary by the simple fact that dozens of House members simply do not trust the senate to pass their "fixes" after the original senate bill is voted on and becomes law (after the president signs it). Their fears are well founded; why should senate Democrats put their neck on the block, blow up the chamber, further anger their constituents just to give House members political cover?

Hence, the Democrats were hoping that Frumin would rule that House Democrats could delay voting on the original senate bill until reconciliation had been completed.

Frumin lowered the hammer yesterday:

The Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that President Barack Obama must sign Congress' original health care reform bill before the Senate can act on a companion reconciliation package, senior GOP sources said Thursday.
The Senate Parliamentarian's Office was responding to questions posed by the Republican leadership. The answers were provided verbally, sources said.

House Democratic leaders have been searching for a way to ensure that any move they make to approve the Senate-passed $871 billion health care reform bill is followed by Senate action on a reconciliation package of adjustments to the original bill. One idea is to have the House and Senate act on reconciliation prior to House action on the Senate's original health care bill.

Information Republicans say they have received from the Senate Parliamentarian's Office eliminates that option. House Democratic leaders last week began looking at crafting a legislative rule that would allow the House to approve the Senate health care bill, but not forward it to Obama for his signature until the Senate clears the reconciliation package. 

This switches attention back to the House where, as I reported yesterday, Democrats will try to pass the original senate bill without voting on it - simply "deeming" it passed, and then sent on to the president for his signature. That ploy was to be used as an adjunct to sending the "fixes" on to the senate before the president signed the original legislation.

Can the Parliamentarian's ruling - which is not official yet - be overturned? I am not as familiar with senate rules as many but my understanding is that the Parliamentarian can, in fact, be overruled because his opinions are in an advisory capacity only. He is almost never overruled however and whether he will be in this case, I don't think anyone can say until Frumin's formal ruling is published.

As it stands now, Frumin has thrown a shoe into the gears that have been turning inexorably toward victory for the Democrats on reform. But don't underestimate the desire or ability of the Democrats to stretch, fold, spindle, and mutilate the rules in order to get this monstrosity passed. And if they have to bring down the Congress in order to achieve their goal, they very well may do so.





His name is Alan Frumin and he may be the hinge upon which the door to nationalized health care is slammed shut.

Frumin occupies a formerly obscure position in the senate, serving as parliamentarian to that body. It's his jobs to interpret the rules of the senate to insure that one side or the other does not take unfair advantage by skirting requirements for legislative debate and germaneness.

Right now, he may be the only person standing in the way of the Democrat's push to ram nationalized health care through to victory.

The Democrat's scheme to use reconciliation in order to placate House members who don't like several aspects of the bill the senate passed in the dead of night last December, has raised a couple of serious questions about parliamentary procedure. What the Democrats wanted to do was use reconciliation in both the House and Senate to push through amendments to the original senate bill before the House voted on it.

It's convoluted and counterintiuitive but made necessary by the simple fact that dozens of House members simply do not trust the senate to pass their "fixes" after the original senate bill is voted on and becomes law (after the president signs it). Their fears are well founded; why should senate Democrats put their neck on the block, blow up the chamber, further anger their constituents just to give House members political cover?

Hence, the Democrats were hoping that Frumin would rule that House Democrats could delay voting on the original senate bill until reconciliation had been completed.

Frumin lowered the hammer yesterday:

The Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that President Barack Obama must sign Congress' original health care reform bill before the Senate can act on a companion reconciliation package, senior GOP sources said Thursday.
The Senate Parliamentarian's Office was responding to questions posed by the Republican leadership. The answers were provided verbally, sources said.

House Democratic leaders have been searching for a way to ensure that any move they make to approve the Senate-passed $871 billion health care reform bill is followed by Senate action on a reconciliation package of adjustments to the original bill. One idea is to have the House and Senate act on reconciliation prior to House action on the Senate's original health care bill.

Information Republicans say they have received from the Senate Parliamentarian's Office eliminates that option. House Democratic leaders last week began looking at crafting a legislative rule that would allow the House to approve the Senate health care bill, but not forward it to Obama for his signature until the Senate clears the reconciliation package. 

This switches attention back to the House where, as I reported yesterday, Democrats will try to pass the original senate bill without voting on it - simply "deeming" it passed, and then sent on to the president for his signature. That ploy was to be used as an adjunct to sending the "fixes" on to the senate before the president signed the original legislation.

Can the Parliamentarian's ruling - which is not official yet - be overturned? I am not as familiar with senate rules as many but my understanding is that the Parliamentarian can, in fact, be overruled because his opinions are in an advisory capacity only. He is almost never overruled however and whether he will be in this case, I don't think anyone can say until Frumin's formal ruling is published.

As it stands now, Frumin has thrown a shoe into the gears that have been turning inexorably toward victory for the Democrats on reform. But don't underestimate the desire or ability of the Democrats to stretch, fold, spindle, and mutilate the rules in order to get this monstrosity passed. And if they have to bring down the Congress in order to achieve their goal, they very well may do so.