Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I need a Congressional scholar

After all the speeches, the new Rasmussen poll out today shows a new high for Americans opposing the health care bill moving through Congress. A full 58% oppose the bill with 46% of them strongly opposing; only 39% approve with 19% strongly in favor. The state governors are waking up to the massive new unfunded liabilities in Medicaid expansion. And the green eyeshades at the CBO have discovered that Congress is double-counting Medicare "savings" from cuts that will never occur. And those are just the aspects of the legislation in plain sight: a big chunk of the cost is hidden in adjusted insurance rates and taxes on medical supply companies.

So I need somebody answer this question because I can't quite figure it out from online sources: what is the procedure to merge the two (House and Senate) bills? Do they go to committee and then face a whole new vote in both houses? If so, is there another chance to filibuster in the Senate or has that ship sailed? Does the CBO need to score the merged bill? Finally, is there any possibility that some legal authority (the Rules committee or the Justice department) could declare that parts of the bill are unconstitutional?

Extra - Critical Condition: "It's not inevitable." Good to know!

Update - Two kind commenters (commentators?) have good explanations in the, um, comments. Also, there's this story from Fox News: "Republican attorney generals threaten lawsuit over health care." I thought the correct term was "attorneys general." Eh.


Vermont Woodchuck said...

They need to have a bill that is worded exactly the same. The House can drop its bill and adopt the Senate version which then does not need a conference committee. It goes to the President. That might happen if Pelosi can talk enough of the House members to go along.

Or they have a push & shove which adds/subtracts from both bills. In that case, both chambers have to vote again on the "finished" product, pass it, and sending it to the President for signing.

Mike said...

This may sound convoluted but these are Senate rules we're talking about.

Each House has to decide to refer the passed legislation to a conference committee if the two final versions are different. In the Senate, this referral is subject to a filibuster.

Once the conference committee hammers out a final version, each House must pass it. Unlike the original Senate debate, the Dems can bring the conference report up for consideration by simple majority. However, the vote to pass the conference report is subject to a filibuster.

The bottom line is that passing a conference report is slightly easier than passing the first bill, but they still need to overcome another filibuster on final passage.

This is a pretty handy reference on Senate filibusters. (PDF link and sorry for being unable to link properly).