The Reconciliation Option

Neil Sinhababu reminds us of the budget reconciliation schedule:

With all the hullabaloo about the House and Senate possibly waiting until after the August recess to vote on health care reform, it’s worth considering how fast we’re going relative to previous expectations. Budget reconciliation instructions originally specified an October 15 date, after which health care reform could pass the Senate with only 50 votes via the budget reconciliation process. So getting a bill in September, if it happens, is still more or less on schedule.

The main issue here is that you can’t really do health care reform through reconciliation in a comprehensive and reasonable way unless you’ve got 50 Senators who are willing to do some strong-arming of the parliamentarian and the process. There’s nothing stopping 50 Senators from doing this, and there’s no reason 50 Senators shouldn’t do this, but I’m a little bit skeptical that they actually will. You continue to hear tons of chatter out of the Senate about how you “can’t” do bills through reconciliation without leaving them subject to the tender mercies of the parliamentarian. It’s not really true—a majority-backed presiding officer can do about whatever he wants—but it’s indicative of the state of mind of the players.