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Health Care Bill Headed For Procedural Death In The Senate; Now Or Later, Bill Will Die...

Do you think that we have hope on this? It's possible, just need to make sure that Republicans none of them, will vote for this bill.

3/18/2010: Health Care Bill Headed For Procedural Death In The Senate; Now Or Later, Bill Will Die:

Democrats might like to think that health care reform is all but a done
deal if it clears the House, but the Senate is where Republicans have
been plotting for months to sentence it to a painful procedural death.

Republican aides have been mining the Senate’s arcane parliamentary
rules for an attack that aims at striking elements both broad and narrow
from the bill, weakening the measure and ultimately defeating it. Their
goal is to force changes that leave Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
(D-Nev.) without 51 votes to pass it, or at the very least, that drive
it back to the House for a second vote that drags out the process and
saps Democratic resolve.

But the first step in the Republicans’ game plan is making sure they
never need to use the rest of it.

“Our initial goal is to stop the bill in the House,” said Sen. John
Cornyn (R-Texas). “Part of convincing House members to vote for the
Senate bill is that it can be fixed by reconciliation, and I think that
is a highly questionable proposition.”

It’s a pre-emptive strike meant to scare jittery House Democrats into
withholding their support from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-Calif.), who
needs 216 votes to pass the Senate bill and a companion measure that
fixes unpopular elements of the bill. If she falls short, comprehensive
health care reform dies.

Senate Republicans will advance their campaign Thursday with floor
speeches detailing why a provision to delay the “Cadillac tax” — a
must-have for House liberals in the companion bill — could fall victim
to the chamber’s parliamentary rules.

The provision is just one of many that Republicans expect to challenge.
Under a strategy developed by Republican Policy Committee Chairman John
Thune of South Dakota and Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Republicans
are plotting ways to strike major elements of the reconciliation bill,
including changes to the special Medicaid deal for Nebraska and the
carve-out for Florida senior citizens from Medicaid Advantage cuts. They
are also going small bore, looking to strike seemingly minor
provisions, including one that would fix language dealing with the
employer mandate and the construction industry.

One senior Republican aide said staff and senators believe that as much
as 40 percent of the measure can be killed through procedural

At the same time, Senate Republicans are engaging in an under-the-radar
effort to target wavering House Democrats by engaging local media in
their districts — mainly in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. They are
using GOP heavyweights, including Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), to drive

Democrats aren’t quaking at the prospect of the Republican offensive.

Senate Democratic aides spent the weekend with the Senate
parliamentarian, scrubbing the legislative language to ensure that “very
little” of their bill will be subject to challenge, said North Dakota
Sen. Kent Conrad, chairman of the Budget Committee.

“We’re going through a laborious process — we spent 8 hours with the
parliamentarian on Sunday — so there’s a laborious process to identify
the things that should be stricken or taken out,” Conrad said.

There is reason for the Democratic confidence. Every reconciliation bill
introduced since the fast-track rules were first used in 1980 has

“If it gets here, it will pass,” said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). “It
only requires 50 votes plus the vice president, so that is an easy
hurdle for them.”

But here is what gives Republicans comfort: Two-thirds of those
reconciliation bills faced procedural challenges.

Every line in the bill must adhere to complex rules or risk being struck
by the parliamentarian. If so much as a comma is changed in the bill,
it will need to return to the House for a second vote. Depending on what
is eliminated, passage in the House could be tough.

“It will go back with a bunch of holes in it,” Coburn said.

Under the Democratic plan, the House would pass the Senate bill and the
sidecar measure by this weekend. The president would then sign the
Senate bill, and the Senate would take up the sidecar measure through
reconciliation — a parliamentary maneuver that allows Democrats to
sidestep the filibuster but subjects the bill to a byzantine set of
procedural challenges.

The sidecar measure would delay implementation of the Cadillac tax from
2013 to 2018, remove the Nebraska and Florida deals, raise the Medicare
payroll tax on the wealthy, boost subsidies for lower-income people to
purchase insurance and narrow the doughnut hole in the Medicare
prescription drug program.

The question is whether the sidecar measure can survive the budget
reconciliation process.

Republicans have at least two major tools available to them.

The first involves points of order. Republicans can raise budget points
of order — arguing, for example, that the bill does not comply with the
chamber’s pay-as-you-go rules. But the bigger weapon is the Byrd Rule,
named after Sen. Robert W. Byrd (D-W.Va.), which prohibits lawmakers
from including anything “extraneous” in the bill. The bill must meet six
different tests, such as requiring every element to affect the budget
in a significant way.

The second tool is the amendment process. After 20 hours of debate,
Republicans can offer as many amendments as possible. The goal is to
force Democrats into votes on politically treacherous issues and force
the approval of amendments that kill the bill. The voting could go on
for days, unless Democrats convince the parliamentarian that Republicans
are being “dilatory.”

Here’s an example of how the Byrd Rule could wreak havoc for Democrats.

Senate Republican aides have begun advancing the idea that Democrats
cannot make changes to the excise tax on Cadillac insurance plans
through reconciliation — an argument that could cause House liberals to
think twice about supporting the legislation.

The reason is that the proposed changes to the so-called Cadillac tax
could violate the Byrd Rule’s prohibition on making changes to Social
Security. Republicans say that, according to reports from the
Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, part of
the deficit savings over the next 10 years stems from increased Social
Security revenues generated by the Cadillac tax, which was supposed to
start in 2013.

But under the deal reached between the White House and Democratic
congressional leaders — and codified in the reconciliation bill — the
tax would not kick in until 2018.

Republicans are circulating a document that concludes that this change
would reduce revenues to the Social Security program and would fall
outside the current budget window, thus compelling them to raise two
points of order to strike this provision from the bill.

If the parliamentarian agrees with Republicans, Democrats would need 60
votes to waive the point of order — which they don’t have.

A House Democratic aide said the leaders would not proceed “until we
have a comfort level with what we can and cannot do in a reconciliation
bill. We are confident that the changes in the excise tax will survive.”

But on Thursday, Republicans plan to give raising doubts about it their
best shot.

At least four senators will go to the floor to argue that House
Democrats should not trust their Senate counterparts when they say
reconciliation will protect their interests.

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