Parliamentary Issues Send ‘Corrections’ Bill Back to House for Revote
On Wednesday, Senate Republicans discovered two minor parliamentary problems with the health care budget reconciliation bill (HR 4872), forcing the Democratic leadership to send the measure back to the House for a revote, the Washington Post reports.
On Sunday, the House passed the so-called "corrections" bill, which includes a series of changes that House Democratic leaders had negotiated with their Senate counterparts in exchange for approving the underlying health reform bill (HR 3590) that President Obama signed into law on Tuesday (Montgomery/Murray, Washington Post, 3/25).
During Wednesday's debate on a series of amendments to the reconciliation bill, Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin agreed with Senate Republicans that at least two of the bill's provisions do not comply with parliamentary rules for a budget reconciliation bill, The Hill reports (Rushing, The Hill, 3/25). Under the rules, all provisions in the bill must directlyÂ affect government spending or revenues.
According to the New York Times, one of the issues involved changes to the Pell grant program for college students as part of a broader proposal to overhaul the federal student loan programs.
Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said thatÂ the second problem is with technical language, which he said was mostly insignificant, and that the parliamentarian was reviewing a third issue.
Kate Cyrul --Â a spokesperson for Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) --Â said the problems would not affect the new health reform law or the student loans proposals and predicted that the House would pass the bill swiftly with only minor revisions (Herszenhorn/Pear, New York Times, 3/25).
Under an agreement between Senate Democrats and Republicans, debate on several remaining Republican amendments is scheduled to be completed Thursday morning before a final vote is called at about 2 p.m. ET, the Wall Street Journal reports (Hitt, Wall Street Journal, 3/25).
Democratic staffers said they are confident that the revised reconciliation bill will not face additional challenges in the House, where it is expected to receive final approval before the weekend, according to the Post (Washington Post, 3/25). Final passage in the House would clear the way for Obama to sign the bill into law (The Hill, 3/25).
Democrats Defeat 29 GOP Amendments
On Wednesday, the Senate continued debating the corrections bill, including a number of GOP amendments, before launching into a marathon session of votes that stretched for nearly 10 hours, CQ Today reports (Hunter, CQ Today, 3/25).
By 3 a.m. ET on Thursday, Senate Democrats had defeated 29 Republican amendments, which they believed were designed to strip or alter the bill's provisions while delaying the final vote and force them into a series of politically difficult votes ahead of the fall midterm elections (The Hill, 3/25).
Among the amendments that were voted down or tabled by Democrats were:
- A proposal by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) that would have prohibited people convicted of sexual offenses from using insurance coverage to obtain sexual enhancing drugs;
- A proposal by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) that would restrict any savings generated through scheduled cuts to Medicare from being used to fund coverage expansion for the uninsured;
- An amendment by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would eliminate special deals in the Senate bill that were awarded to Senate Democrats representing several states;
- An amendment by Sen. Michael Crapo (R-Idaho) that would have protected individuals whose annual incomes are less than $200,000 from any type of tax hikes under the new health reform law (CQ Today, 3/25); and
- A proposal by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that would have required the president, vice president, top White House cabinet officials and staffers and certain congressional staffers to obtain coverage through new state-based insurance exchanges under the new law (Shiner, "Live Pulse," Politico, 3/24).
Under budget reconciliation rules, Republicans were permitted to offer an unlimited number of amendments to the bill during 20 hours of mandatory debate (California Healthline, 3/24). According to The Hill, Democrats opted to waive their half of the 20 hours to expedite the process, and Republicans decided to forgo a strategy of repeatedly filing amendments (The Hill, 3/25).
The Post reports that only a few of the 59 Democrats in the Senate voted in favor of some of the amendments, suggesting that the bill would easily receive the 51 votes required to pass under budget reconciliation rules (Washington Post, 3/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.