March 11th, 2010
06:55 PM ET
12 years ago

Parliamentarian decision could make health bill tougher for Democrats

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Democratic health care plans hit a road block on Thursday."]Washington (CNN) – A finding by the Senate parliamentarian has narrowed Democrats' options for passing health care reform and could force House Democrats to approve the Senate health care bill and have the President sign it into law before they vote on changes to the measure.

Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin notified leaders from both parties Thursday that the process Democrats are using to pass health care reform, known as reconciliation, must be tied to something already signed into law, according to staff for Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and other congressional sources.

Practically, this could force House Democratic leaders to ask members who oppose the Senate bill as it stands now to vote the measure into law and have faith that the Senate will agree to a package of changes.

House Democrats are still discussing strategy for passing revisions to the Senate bill using reconciliation. But Democratic aides have admitted that it would be easier to vote on the original Senate bill if it were followed immediately by a vote on the package of changes in reconciliation.

Republicans see the decision as a tactical victory, making the climb to health care passage steeper. Don Stewart, spokesman for McConnell, e-mailed a statement confirming the decision, writing, "The Senate Parliamentarian's office has informed Senate Republicans that reconciliation instructions require the measure to make changes in law."

The parliamentarian's decision leaves open one other option: Democrats could try to tie the changes they want in the Senate health care bill to other laws currently on the books. But it's not clear if that is feasible, especially because some key issues in the health care bill are not found in existing laws, such as how to pay for reform.

Filed under: Health care
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Howard Roark

    When will this administration accept the fact that most Americans do not want the Health Care bill as proposed? I have two words in reply to all ranting, elitist liberals who will soon weigh in: tort reform

    March 11, 2010 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  2. Michael

    I wouldn't be too proud of yourself McConnell. You and your Repugicans are the reason 30 million people in this country will not have healthcare. Maybe we should indict you and your fellow Republicans with 2nd Degree Murder for "Depraved Indifference" by allowing thousands of people everyday to die in this country. May God have mercy on your souls.

    March 11, 2010 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  3. Four and the Door

    This is precious. Good luck getting enough House Democrats to sign the Senate Bill into law. Sure, Nancy Pelosi can promise that all of these " irregularities and issues" with it will be fixed, but who will she find that still trusts anything she says?

    March 11, 2010 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  4. aware

    Just drop this deeply flawed bill. Start over in an authentic bipartisan way, and do it one step at a time. 🙂

    Knowledge that doesn't produce wisdom is useless! So face it, a so called bright leader without wisdom is useless!

    Try truth! 🙂

    March 11, 2010 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  5. Pragmatic

    If you are going to do it ... do it right. The Parliamentarian is neutral.

    Now all we need to do is check and see if the GOP were required to use the same procedure when they used reconciliation nearly 2 dozen times.

    Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    March 11, 2010 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  6. cph9680

    It's dead for sure now! God bless America!!!

    March 11, 2010 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  7. Chandler

    This doesn't change things at all. The Dems have been planning on passing the senate bill in the house and then making minor changes via reconcillation. The Senate and the House have BOTH passed health care legislation already. They have a lot to work with.

    March 11, 2010 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  8. AJ

    Or they could take a page from the republican playbook, fire the Parliamentarian and hire a differnt one with an opinion mor ein keeping with their goals.

    March 11, 2010 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  9. jules sand-perkins

    President Obama will stop at nothing to get some HC bill forced upon America.
    Republicans and centrist Democrats should stop him BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.

    March 11, 2010 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  10. Jim

    I still can't figure out if this is SUCH A GOOD BILL, why a super-majority has struggled so hard to pass it. If the republicans are so influential with the voting public, why have they lost all the elections since 2006???? Our president has said it is just a communication problem- he has given so many speeches, several prime-time addresses, and yet the American public has not embraced it. He is the best orator we have seen in our generation, yet his contant campaigns barely resonate with the public.

    Is it possible that this bill has serious flaws that could have been addressed a year ago? Democrats never needed a single republican vote – then why are democrats voting against it?

    March 11, 2010 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  11. howie

    Thank you, thank you, Alan, at least someone has a little sense.

    March 11, 2010 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  12. Cindy

    Has this always been the case? With all other times reconciliation was used? It doesn't sound logical at all.

    March 11, 2010 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  13. Richie in Mass

    Maybe they could do like they do here in Mass. Change the rules to benefit Democrats. They should stop wasting time and money on this bill. How much does it cost us for Obama to travel the country to sell a bill that the majority doesn't want? Start with what can pass. Pass that then hold the republicans to the flame when they don't go along. Right now calling them the party of no is a good thing for most Americans because they are against this bill.

    March 11, 2010 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  14. malclave

    Democrats won't let little things like rules (or even laws) get in their way of taking over anything they can get their grubby little hands near.

    March 11, 2010 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  15. maria faria

    This is not news! Everyone should know that reconciliation measures must amend existing law. Of course they could amend laws which already exist, or the House could pass the Senate's bill and then everyone vote on the reconciliation measures. THIS IS NOT NEWS. Ms. Desjardins has written her piece in a very biased way, to give the impression that it's a new development, supposedly creating more tension. That's media hype, people. Yes, even CNN does it. Shame on you. No "victory" for Repubs (although their delusional state will have them saying so) and no "steeper climb" for the Democrats (although from what I've seen, they will find ways to make it harder for themselves). This is nothing other than moving forward, under the present rules.

    March 11, 2010 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  16. Perusing-through


    Parliamentarian Alan Frumin is another Republican obstructionist. Alan was selected by Republican Trent Lott (before his Jesse Helms debacle), and eventually appointed to Parliamentarian leadership when Trent Lott was booted.

    March 11, 2010 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  17. m smith

    The republican party is a shameless bunch that will delay health care at any cost to anyone.

    March 11, 2010 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  18. rachel

    They just want to pass anything

    March 11, 2010 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  19. SEH

    Actually, I believe that Biden can simply overrule the parliamentarian and then this decision would come up for a straight up-or-down vote. Alternatively, the Democrats can simply replace the parliamentarian with one who would not require the tying of the reconciliation to a previously passed bill. When the past parliamentarian ruled that the Bush tax cuts couldn't be passed with reconciliation he was fired and replaced with the current parliamentarian.

    March 11, 2010 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  20. Hypocrisy

    So much for healthcare refom

    March 11, 2010 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  21. Steve-Illinois

    If this is the case, the House can expect the Senate to leave them flapping in the wind! Pelosi's patsies! That's what they will call them. The Senate considers itself as being "above" the commoners that get voted into the House of Representatives, always have. Look at how many bills the House passes and then they just sit and stagnate in the Senate. If the House sticks it's neck out on this bill, come November, they'll get slaughtered!

    Common sense!

    March 11, 2010 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  22. Stallion

    Scrap this LEMON.....focus on national defense, creating jobs, saving mortgages, building up out economy and seriously consider improving healthcare in stages. Solutions that truly address the rising costs......

    March 11, 2010 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  23. billincalif

    HEY, NO PROBLEMO! Attach a reconcilation amendment to an existing law that eliminates the position of PARLIAMENTARIAN. SLAM DUNK! CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN!

    March 11, 2010 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  24. Paul Ernest Show

    Whatever means or ways that ensure that we get the healthcare reform passed, let them pursue them. Lives are being lost and diseases are foraging deeper and deeper into the lives of many people, who cannot afford to pay for their treatments or even see a doctor. We do not have to wage wars to defend American's lives, like the republicans believe. That is, even if the believe so, because it is rather obvious that these wars the have led the country into are for political expediencies, and not based on true and honest regard or care for the lives of average Americans.

    March 11, 2010 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  25. Joel Celey

    I really don't care what the democrats have to do in order to pass health care reform. They just need to do it as soon as possible. These parlimentary rules did not stop the republicans under the Bush administration. Don't let them stop the democrats now. I promise that I will not vote for a single democrat if this reform bill gets squashed.

    March 11, 2010 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
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