House Republican Leader John Boehner and Republican Whip Eric Cantor on Monday sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel asking for details on the President’s proposed February 25 health care summit.
One of the most important points raised in the letter: “Assuming the President is sincere about moving forward in a bipartisan way, does that mean he has taken off the table the idea of relying solely on Democratic votes and jamming through health care reform by way of reconciliation? As the President has noted recently, Democrats continue to hold large majorities in the House and Senate, which means they can attempt to pass a health care bill at any time through the reconciliation process. Eliminating the possibility of reconciliation would represent an important show of good faith to Republicans and the American people.”
Boehner spokesman Mike Steel confirmed last night they have not yet received the formal invitation from the White House or any answers to their questions about the proposed summit.
Pelosi top health care aide Wendell Primus was reported earlier this week spilling the endgame “trick” to facilitate a deal that would allow changes to the Senate-passed health care bill using the budget reconciliation legislative gimmick. Primus says the deal is being worked out behind closed doors.
To check procedural next steps in the Senate, I spoke yesterday with Elizabeth Letchworth who was four times elected United States Senate Secretary for the Majority/Minority. She worked on the floor of the Senate during 19 of the 23 times reconciliation has been used to pass Senate legislation. Letchworth is presently a senior legislative advisor at Covington & Burling and the owner-founder of GradeGov.com.
“The Finance Committee would create the document and pass it on simple majority vote,” Letchworth told HUMAN EVENTS. “There’s been an awful lot of heartburn with the Cornhusker Kickback sort of deal and the taxes on Cadillac health plans. These are budgetary problems. They can fix all of that through reconciliation.”
The budget reconciliation process is limited to budgetary matters and would allow Democrats to sidestep a 60-vote margin to end a filibuster. Debate is limited to 20 hours, but there are no restrictions on amendments. As many as can be offered must be voted on and if history serves as any guide Democrats would expedite the amendment process with one minute of debate allowed per amendment — that’s sixty seconds to introduce and debate major elements of legislation.
Letchworth’s GradeGov.com has produced a video that illustrates this process dubbed “vote-o-rama.”
“Twenty hours of debate is twenty hours, and then it’s a matter of how long they’re going to spend on amendments,” Letchworth said. “The way the law was written, you can still offer amendments and you can still get an immediate vote, which is why it’s back to back to back to back votes. It makes a complete mockery of the legislative process.”
“A vote-o-rama becomes survival of the fittest,” Letchworth continued. “At some point eventually the amendment process will end. I’ve been through 20 vote-o-ramas. … Eventually everybody knows it will end. At the end you have a majority vote and it will pass.”
Republicans can’t possibly win any amendments votes that would make the reconciliation bill unacceptable to the majority of House Democrats. And is this really how our Congress should be deciding major pieces of legislation?
The rest of the process: the reconciliation bill would then come up in the House as a motion to concur. If that passes the House, the Senate-passed health care bill would come up in the same manner, pass, then both would go to the President for signature.
I asked Letchworth if she thought Democrats would use budget reconciliation in this manner to “fix” the Senate bill, assuming they can make the final backroom deal.
“What are they going to say?” Letchworth asked. “We didn’t want to do it that way? C’mon.”
Gregg Accepts Obama’s Health Care Summit Offer
Retiring Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) bellied up to the bar in the health care summit debate this week writing a letter to President Obama offering to sit down with Democrats and discuss a compromise on health care.
Gregg’s letter appears to be his attempt to finagle an invitation to the February 25 meeting, to which he may not otherwise be invited.
Gregg’s letter includes a summary of the plan called “Coverage, Prevention and Reform,” or CPR, that attempts to transition away from “fee for service” health care. CPR taxes health insurance plans as part of an individual’s income at a value over $5,000 per individual and $11,500 per family, and allows tax deductions for individuals purchasing their own insurance up to the same level. The plan also requires everyone over the age of 18 to have “proof of insurance.” More at the link.
The question Americans outside the beltway are asking is why at this point Republicans would sit down and discuss ways to compromise on the Democrats’ proposed government takeover of health care? Unless the President agrees to start afresh, why would Republicans eagerly board the sinking Titanic to help rearrange the deck chairs?
Do Republicans think they can win a health care debate with the President, especially when he controls the microphone? Ask last summer’s town hall attendees about outrageous lies and cut microphones. Better yet, watch the tape from the House Republicans’ retreat in Baltimore.
The President doesn’t want a compromise. He wants to keep his government takeover if health care intact but wants Republican fingerprints on it so they share in the electoral wrath of the American public come November.
The Democrats’ singular health care goal is to pass government-run health care. The President doesn’t want free market solutions to anything. He wants government solutions. His agenda is not about health care or jobs or recovery. It’s about control; government control over every single aspect of our lives.
No amount of “compromise” will change that.