First, one more reminder that tonight at 9 pm EST I’ll be on web radio at Buzz Tok. You can participate in the show by going here. You can also call in at 724-444-7444; call ID is 35186#. The planned topic is the politics of torture.
That wasn’t the good news. Eric Kleefeld writes at TPM Cafe that the NY-20 special election is now officially over, and the Democrat won. Scott Murphy takes over in the seat once occupied by Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed to replace Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Senate.
But here’s the real good news — Jonathan Cohn writes,
It’s been in the works for a while and now, according to senior Capitol Hill staffers, it’s a done deal: The final budget resolution will include a “reconciliation instruction” for health care. That means the Democrats can pass health care reform with just fifty votes, instead of the sixty it takes to break a filibuster.
Here’s why this is a big deal: Under Senate rules, it takes the votes of 60 Senators to close debate and actually vote on a bill. Thus, the 41 Republicans in the Senator can filibuster away and stop a bill from passing by not allowing it to come to a vote. Senate Republicans have been very clear that’s what they intend to do with a health care bill.
However, the Senate Budget Committee can add language to the budget bill, called reconciliation language, that instructs specific other committees to produce certain bills with specified spending targets. The committees send the bill back to the Budget Committee, which makes the bill part of an omnibus bill. The omnibus bill gets 20 hours of debate and then is voted on by the full Senate, where it needs a simple majority to pass. A simple majority should not be a problem in either the Senate or House.
The House version of the congressional budget resolution contains the reconciliation language. Until tonight, however, the Senate version did not.
Republicans frequently used the reconciliation language to forward their legislative agenda from 2003 to 2006, while they were in the majority. You might remember that some tried to end the filibuster altogether for judicial nominations in 2004 and 2005. Now, suddenly, some of these same senators speak of the filibuster as the last bastion of democracy. Typical.
Anyway, this step makes it much more likely that a health care reform bill will actually get written and passed in Congress this year.
According to Cohn, the reconciliation language gives the Senate until October 15 to pass a bill in a bipartisan way. But if there’s no bill then, the reconciliation language kicks in, and a bill can be passed without obstruction from the 41 Republicans.
Possible bad news: There is speculation that in order to get the reconciliation in the budget bill, a deal was stuck that would allow conservatives to mess around with Social Security. For this, see Matt Y. and Ezra.
However, right now I would think mucking around with Social Security–especially to privatize any of it–would be slightly less popular than prostate cancer. I am not too concerned, yet.