Next Step As Obamacare Goes Nuclear

The House of Representatives yesterday set into motion the nuclear option for H.R. 3200 that would make it possible for the Senate to pass government-run health care with only 51 votes.

House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) held the mandatory hearing yesterday to pass the formal notification in the form of a letter to the Budget Committee saying H.R. 3200 — the main House Obamacare bill which was the subject of all the town hall rage in August — has met all requirements to pass as a “budget reconciliation” measure.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the top Republican on the House Ways & Means Committee, spoke with HUMAN EVENTS yesterday about events at the hearing and maneuvers by House Democrats to give their Senate comrades the opportunity to shut down debate on the bill in the Senate with 51 votes instead of the required 60.

“Under the rules, they had to have a hearing in committee in order to be able to position themselves to move through a process called reconciliation,” Camp said.  “They had to send the bill to the Budget Committee to do that.”

The notification is in the form of a letter certifying that the Ways & Means Committee has met the requirements set forth in the budget bill.

“Attached to the letter would be the bill,” Camp said.  “So this sends the bill to the Budget Committee to vote it out.  They’re setting up the nuclear option, not having any Republican votes for this bill.  They’re setting up that process.”

“That is an amendable document,” Camp continued.  “It’s an amendable process. There’s an opportunity to have amendments and have debate. They shut that completely down.”

The notification letter passed out of the Ways & Means Committee on a straight party line vote. No debate was allowed, and no amendments. Rangel told Camp that he would not have preferred to do it this way, but leadership — i.e., Speaker Pelosi — forced his hand.  

“We had let them know we were offering amendments and we had heard no problem with that until we got there today,” Camp said.  “Chairman Rangel said leadership made him do it, but he did it, not the leadership.”

This was the final opportunity for debate and amendments to the bill on a committee level.  The Budget Committee will simply vote to pass the bill out with an up or down vote that would certify that the bill has met the reconciliation requirements.

“It’s supposed to only be bills that impact the deficit,” Camp added.  “And what they’ve done is said this bill will save a billion dollars. That’s what we were ordered under the budget resolution to do.  They’ll fulfill that marker, but they’ll use that obviously to spend a lot more.”

The bill being certified for “reconciliation” is the Ways & Means version of H.R. 3200 that was passed out of committee before the August break, and before it was read aloud at town hall meetings across the country and blasted by voters across the country.

It contains all of the horrors previously exposed:  federal funding of abortion, coverage for illegal aliens, comparative effectiveness, healthcare rationing, deep cuts to Medicare.  Everything the American people overwhelmingly reject.

“Since the time we voted on this bill until today, we’ve had new issues develop, we’ve had new scores from the Congressional Budget Office which is the non-partisan expert agency that reviews our legislation,” Camp said.  “We felt it was important to talk about the issues.  We’ve had some new developments, new information.”  

“Let’s have 72 hours to read the bill and have the bill available,” Camp continued.  “That didn’t get any certain discussion today.  Let’s make sure members of Congress are part of any health care bill that passes.  That didn’t get any debate today.  Let’s make sure that we do not have non-citizens here illegally getting government funded healthcare.  Let’s make sure we don’t use tax dollars to fund and pay for abortion.  We didn’t get to vote on that today.”

Reconciliation is a parliamentary process that was created for use solely on the reduction of spending bills in order to reduce the deficit.  Spending bills must originate in the House, and when passing the budget, the full House can include language in the budget bill to a specific committee instructing them to reduce spending by a specific amount in order to reduce the deficit.  

Having learned from the 1993 Hillarycare debacle when the American people utterly rejected the notion of the government takeover of health care, House Democrats placed reconciliation language into the 2010 budget to facilitate passage of the government takeover of health care with Obamacare through budget reconciliation.  In the case of H.R. 3200, the reconciliation instruction was to reduce the cost of the health care bill by $1 billion — a bill that by some estimates will cost taxpayers a minimum of $1.6 trillion.

“This is after August when the American people clearly weighed in and said, ‘Hey, hold up.  We want to be part of this.  We want to have some more openness,’” Camp said.  “I think they feel the less people know the better; that they, the majority, are better off because they don’t have to explain.  People don’t know what it is they’re really doing.  We won’t find out until it’s actually done.”

Since it has now cleared the Ways and Means Committee (fulfilling the $1 billion reconciliation requirement), H.R. 3200 will go to the Budget Committee where they will do the same thing that was done today in Ways & Means.  They will agree on a straight party line vote that the bill has met the reconciliation requirements.
The bill then goes to Pelosi and the Rules Committee where Pelosi will do the same thing Sen. Harry Reid is doing with the two Senate bills right now:  Pelosi will merge the three House versions of H.R. 3200 together into whatever she wants it to be, then she will schedule it for a floor vote.
H.R. 3200 could see a floor vote in the next two weeks, likely no later than the first week of November if Democrats believe they have the votes for passage.  If the bill does pass a full House vote, and that’s a big “if” given the deep divides over the issues among Democrats, the bill would then be sent over to the Senate.

There are still bumps in the road for passage in the Senate with 51 votes, placing the undue burden for passage of H.R. 3200 through the Senate by reconciliation on rulings from the Senate parliamentarian.

Stay tuned.