Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) doesn’t want the healthcare bill to go through his committee by the reconciliation ploy. Now, Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) have upped the ante.
It was only a couple of weeks ago (February 28) that Conrad told “Face the Nation” that, “…reconciliation cannot be used to pass comprehensive health care reform. It won’t work. It won’t work because it was never designed for that kind of significant legislation. It was designed for deficit reduction… The major package of health care reform cannot move through the reconciliation process. It will not work… It will not work because of the Byrd Rule which says anything that doesn’t score for budget purposes has to be eliminated. That would eliminate all the delivery system reform, all the insurance market reform, all of those things the experts tell us are really the most important parts of this bill. The only possible role that I can see for reconciliation would be make modest changes in the major package to improve affordability, to deal with what share of Medicaid expansion the federal government pays, those kinds of issues, which is the traditional role for reconciliation in health care.”
Just this afternoon, McConnell and Kyl released a letter they’d sent to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) saying that they would not waive any objections under the Byrd Rule and will insist on stripping from a reconciliation bill anything that can’t be scored for budget purposes.
They wrote, “…we wish to inform you that we will oppose efforts to waive the so-called Byrd Rule during Senate consideration of any reconciliation bill concerning health reform. The Byrd Rule, as you know, was created by Senator Byrd to ensure that reconciliation bills were not used to enact policy changes, the primary purpose of which is not specifically related to the federal budget. As it takes 60 votes to waive the Byrd Rule, we can ensure that any provision that trips the Byrd Rule will be stripped from the bill, which will require that the bill be sent back to the House for further consideration and additional votes.”
Well, and Harry thought he’d be changing the filibuster rule next year. But that takes 67 votes. And, if things keep going this way, Harry won’t be here to vote on it anyhow.