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Thursday, March 11, 2010

More on Reconciliation - "Byrd Baths"

There appears to be no end to the palace intrigue associated with the health care bills. This very interesting piece in the health care blog regarding one aspect of reconciliation called "byrd baths" was most enlightening.

http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2010/03/11/gregg-use-medicare-cuts-to-plug-budget-gap/

Gregg warned House Democrats that their Senate colleagues might prove unable or even unwilling to move all the agreed-upon modifications through the Senate using reconciliation. He said Republicans would subject a reconciliation bill to sentence-by-sentence scrutiny under the “Byrd rule,” named for Democratic Senator Robert Byrd (WV), which is designed to ensure that reconciliation is used only for legislation focusing on budgetary issues. Under this process, known as a “Byrd bath,” any sentence for which policy significance outweighs budgetary significance can be stricken from the bill through a Byrd rule point-of-order, which takes 60 votes to waive, Sen. Gregg argued.

The only way around this is for the House to pass the Senate bill unchanged. However, this is not likely to happen. The Democrats simply do not appear to have the votes now. There are almost an infinite number of scenarios which can be run which could result in a narrow majority, but if the conditions were right, the vote would have already happened.  In the short term, it is hard to assess whether the odds could improve the likelihood of passage but in the longer term, the odds will fall as the fall elections approach.

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