Senate Staff to Huddle with Parliamentarian at Noon on Reconciliation

Posted March 22, 2010 at 10:08am

Democratic and Republican staff are scheduled to meet with the Senate Parliamentarian on Monday to discuss the health care reconciliation package, with the GOP expected to use the meeting to challenge key provisions of the legislation in the hopes of bringing it down.

The meeting is set for noon in the Lyndon Baines Johnson room of the Capitol.

The House voted late Sunday night along party lines in favor of a health care reform package and companion reconciliation legislation, meant to make key adjustments to the underlying $875 billion Senate bill. Senate Republicans intend to argue to Parliamentarian Alan Frumin that at least one provision of the reconciliation bill violates Section 310g of the Budget Act and should result in the entire package losing its reconciliation status.

Senate Democrats, who declined to comment on the meeting, will argue the opposite. After considering both sides, Frumin is expected to rule, although the timing is unclear. Section 310g prevents reconciliation legislation from affecting Social Security; the GOP plans to argue that a provision in the bill dealing with the excise tax on expensive “Cadillac” insurance plans affects the entitlement program.

Meanwhile, Republican Senate staff is expected to make additional arguments, including that various provisions of the reconciliation package violate the so-called Byrd rule and should be stripped from the bill. Any change to the reconciliation package in the Senate would require that it be sent back to the House for a revote.

Should the bill lose its reconciliation protections, it would be subject to a filibuster and no longer be able to pass with just 51 votes. The Democrats would need to muster 60 votes to overturn any budget point of order upheld by the Parliamentarian, a difficult threshold to meet given that the Senate GOP Conference has already pledged to remain united on budget points of order.