Gregg Cites Health Bill Rule Violations

Posted March 18, 2010 at 2:23pm

The top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee asserted Thursday that portions of the health care reconciliation package likely violate the rules for such legislation — and that one violation might result in the entire bill losing its reconciliation status.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said a preliminary review of the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the bill revealed a proposal that might affect Social Security. The Budget Act stipulates that reconciliation legislation cannot affect Social Security.

If the Senate Parliamentarian upheld a budget point of order on the grounds that such a violation exists,

the bill would be stripped of its status as a reconciliation measure, Gregg said, which means Democrats could no longer clear it with just 51 votes.

“Under the Budget Act, the budget process is not allowed to impact Social Security. It’s off the table. And so any budget bill that comes to the floor — either a budget bill or a reconciliation bill … cannot impact Social Security,” Gregg said. “That’s a pretty big issue.”

Republicans are also scrubbing the legislation for other possible rule infractions, particularly “Byrd rule” violations. The Byrd rule dictates that provisions of budget and reconciliation measures must have a direct budgetary affect.

Gregg said it would be impossible for him to have a firm handle on the reconciliation package’s flaws until he had a chance to review legislative text, which became available Thursday afternoon.

“There are a lot of moving parts right now,” Gregg told reporters during a joint news conference with Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.).

Meanwhile, Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said he expects more provisions to be removed from the reconciliation package prior to it dropping on the House floor in order to guard against rule violations when it arrives in the Senate.

Conrad noted that several provisions have already been removed from the bill because those items were vulnerable to being struck by budget points of order Republicans have vowed to raise.

“There’s been a substantial amount taken out because of Byrd rule challenges,” Conrad said. “I’d say from the initial draft as much as 25 percent because of initial Byrd rule issues. … We still don’t know how the Parliamentarian will rule on everything, so I’d expect that perhaps some more will come out.”