Commentary Magazine


Topic: budget chairman

The Gamesmanship Is Nearly Over

Sen. Kent Conrad, the Senate budget chairman, had this to say Sunday on the subject of reconciliation:

I have said all year as chairman of the Budget Committee, reconciliation cannot be used to pass comprehensive health care reform. It won’t work. It won’t work because it was never designed for that kind of significant legislation. It was designed for deficit reduction. So, let’s be clear. On the major Medicare or health care reform legislation, that can’t move to reconciliation. The role for reconciliation would be very limited. It would be on sidecar issues designed to improve what passed the Senate and what would have to pass the House for health care reform to move forward. So, using reconciliation would not be for the main package at all. It would be for certain sidecar issues like how much does the federal government put up to pay for the Medicaid expansion? What is done to improve the affordability of the package that’s come out of the Senate?

And in case anything was unclear, he repeated: “Well, health care reform at large would not be—I’ve just said. Health care reform the major package would not be done through reconciliation. That would be unreasonable. But that’s not going to happen here.”

Reconciliation has been the buzzword of late, but it is becoming apparent that it’s a dodge intended to keep the hopes of the liberal base alive and to force the House to go first, which then might produce some magic key to unlock health care. But if the Senate budget chair is forcefully calling foul on the process, what then is the point of the House vote? According to Conrad, whatever the House came up with will have to go back and be put through the normal legislative process, subject to the filibuster.

Well, as with so much else on ObamaCare, one has the sense that this is a charade. No bill, no clear process, no public support, and no House majority. Had the summit been the breakthrough moment the Obami had hoped for maybe a groundswell of support could have shaken the pieces loose and then sharp deal makers could have sifted among the debris and constructed an ObamaCare III or whatever they would have called it. But the summit was a bust for the Democrats, and we’re talking specifically about Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who proved to be just as unlikeable and ineffective as many suspected.

The end of ObamaCare isn’t here yet, but we’re getting close as the artifices fall one by one and the chattering class comes to suspect there simply isn’t any way for largely ineffective Democratic leaders to get a monstrous, hugely unpopular bill through both houses. And this, they will tell us, is a great sign of failure and of gridlock. Well, perhaps it’s simply the long-overdue triumph of popular will over elected representatives.

Sen. Kent Conrad, the Senate budget chairman, had this to say Sunday on the subject of reconciliation:

I have said all year as chairman of the Budget Committee, reconciliation cannot be used to pass comprehensive health care reform. It won’t work. It won’t work because it was never designed for that kind of significant legislation. It was designed for deficit reduction. So, let’s be clear. On the major Medicare or health care reform legislation, that can’t move to reconciliation. The role for reconciliation would be very limited. It would be on sidecar issues designed to improve what passed the Senate and what would have to pass the House for health care reform to move forward. So, using reconciliation would not be for the main package at all. It would be for certain sidecar issues like how much does the federal government put up to pay for the Medicaid expansion? What is done to improve the affordability of the package that’s come out of the Senate?

And in case anything was unclear, he repeated: “Well, health care reform at large would not be—I’ve just said. Health care reform the major package would not be done through reconciliation. That would be unreasonable. But that’s not going to happen here.”

Reconciliation has been the buzzword of late, but it is becoming apparent that it’s a dodge intended to keep the hopes of the liberal base alive and to force the House to go first, which then might produce some magic key to unlock health care. But if the Senate budget chair is forcefully calling foul on the process, what then is the point of the House vote? According to Conrad, whatever the House came up with will have to go back and be put through the normal legislative process, subject to the filibuster.

Well, as with so much else on ObamaCare, one has the sense that this is a charade. No bill, no clear process, no public support, and no House majority. Had the summit been the breakthrough moment the Obami had hoped for maybe a groundswell of support could have shaken the pieces loose and then sharp deal makers could have sifted among the debris and constructed an ObamaCare III or whatever they would have called it. But the summit was a bust for the Democrats, and we’re talking specifically about Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who proved to be just as unlikeable and ineffective as many suspected.

The end of ObamaCare isn’t here yet, but we’re getting close as the artifices fall one by one and the chattering class comes to suspect there simply isn’t any way for largely ineffective Democratic leaders to get a monstrous, hugely unpopular bill through both houses. And this, they will tell us, is a great sign of failure and of gridlock. Well, perhaps it’s simply the long-overdue triumph of popular will over elected representatives.

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