Thursday, March 25, 2010

What is reconciliation, and the Public Option might not be dead yet

I know there's been a lot of confusion about reconciliation, what it is, what it does, and all the rest. So let's take a look at what's been going on.

Usually, when a bill becomes law, the House passes a version - call it A. The Senate passes a version - call it B. If there are any differences between the two bills, they go into a committee made of up members from the two groups that smooths out any differences - call that one AB. Then, the House and the Senate vote on the two.

Here's the problem right now. Republicans aren't letting *any* bill pass in the Senate unless it has 60 votes, and there are 41 Republicans and 59 Democrats. So the Senate passed Health Care Version A when they had 60 Democratic votes, the House passed Health Care version B.

Problem is - when Scott Brown (R-MA) got into the Senate, that killed any chance of the Senate voting on the AB version.

This is where reconciliation comes up. Turns out there's a way to get things passed in the Senate via simple majority. First, the House has to pass the Senate version of the bill. Remember how the Senate passed Health Care Version B? Well, the House of Representatives just has to say "OK, we get rid of *our* version, and we pass the Senate version."


Now, you still have all of those fixes. So the House can say "We propose these changes to the Senate Bill B, called B1." If that passes, then the Senate can say "We accept the House version - and that doesn't take 60 votes, it only takes 51."

That's where we are right now. The House passed Health Care B1 (the fixes to the Health Care Bill). The Senate is debating it right now. Republicans are trying everything to stop the process - mainly, by proposing changes to the changes. If there's so much as 1 change, then it has to go back to the House for another vote, and if they make so much as 1 change, it has to go back to the Senate, and it could ping-pong forever.

Right now, Democrats are standing firm, even though Republicans are bringing up tons of changes like "Vote to deny erection medications for pedophiles." Something Democrats know will look bad in commercials when they see "This Democrat wants criminals to get boners!"

Now things have gotten really interesting. Turns out the Senate must make 2 changes to the bill because there were mistakes after all. (It deals with something called a Parliamentarian deciding things.) So the Senate *will* have to make these two small changes, then send it back to the House.

Here's where it becomes awesome: there was a lot of talk of a Public Option. A government run alternative people could choose to use instead of insurance companies. Because the Republicans have forced a vote on all of these amendments instead of just approving all of the fixes, this now gives a chance to the Democrats to bring up a new amendment (since they have to make these two fixes anyway).

And then, someone could submit for an amendment the Public Option. The House had the votes for it when they passed their bill, the Senate didn't since they needed 60 votes. Now, the Senate only needs 51.

We might have the Republicans to thank if this happens. But you know I'm going to be on the phone with my Senator telling them they should propose it.

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