Republican Senators Scour Reconciliation Package for Rules Violations

Posted March 18, 2010 at 5:11pm

With the health care reconciliation package unveiled Thursday, Senate Republicans began scouring the legislation for rules violations that could derail the bill — and they believe they’ve found the first of several.

Senior Republican aides pointed to portion of the reconciliation package that calls for “appropriating” $1 billion to fund the “Health Insurance Reform Implementation Fund … within the Department of Health and Human Services to carry out the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

The legislative language leading Republicans to believe they have discovered a Byrd Rule violation reads: “There is appropriated to the Fund, out of any funds in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, $1,000,000,000 for Federal administrative expenses to carry out such Act …”

GOP aides contend the appropriation violates the Byrd Rule because appropriating funds does not fall within the jurisdiction of Finance or Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the two committees with jurisdiction under the reconciliation instructions for this bill. Any appropriations, Republicans are prepared to argue once reconciliation hits the Senate floor, fall under the jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee.

“We’re going to make so many changes to this reconciliation sidecar proposal that its authors won’t even recognize it when it gets back to the House,” a senior Republican aide said late Thursday afternoon.

If a reconciliation package is amended or changed in any way by the Senate, it must go back to the House for another vote. Because Republicans remain unified and Democrats lack the 60 votes required to overcome a budget point of order, it is assumed that any budget point of order raised by the GOP and upheld by the Senate Parliamentarian would result in the problematic measure being stripped.

In that case, the reconciliation package would have to be sent back to the House for another vote. The House is tentatively scheduled to vote on the reconciliation package on Sunday. Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) predicted that Democrats would remove provisions from the bill that might violate the Byrd Rule to prevent Senate Republicans from derailing the legislation after it hits the Senate floor.