The ObamaCare Nuclear Option

Over at NROnline’s The Corner, Daniel Foster wrote an interesting piece where he explained how Vice President Joe Biden could press the button to launch the Senate’s reconciliation Nuclear Option.  This strategy is the only way the Democrats can get ObamaCare across the finish line and to the President’s desk in the next few weeks.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office has come up with this partisan strategy to pass a version of ObamaCare that must start in the House.  They need the help of Vice President Biden to usher the bill through the Senate’s consideration, because the plan includes the Vice President issuing rulings, as President of the Senate, that will avoid a filibuster.  Ironically, the Pelosi strategy is all happening as President Obama’s schedules a public bipartisan meeting of the House and Senate to work on a deal to find common ground on health care reform.  The President and Democrats are readying the ObamaCare Nuclear Option if the summit does not produce a deal.  ObamaCare has been soundly rejected by the American people.  The election of Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts and poll numbers (thank you Real Clear Politics) prove that people don’t want ObamaCare — yet the Obama Administration and Members of Congress are still attempting to pass a version of this bill.  As a result of the election of Brown and the sagging poll numbers for ObamaCare, the Democrats have come up with a partisan strategy to pass ObamaCare in the form of the Health Care Nuclear Option.

As I described the situation in Human Events:

An aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says liberals have crafted a way around the Senate’s filibuster rule, so they hope to get ObamaCare signed into law by Easter. First, the House would pass a reconciliation bill making changes to the Senate-passed bill. With a reconciliation bill, the filibuster rule in the Senate would be set aside, and liberal Democrats could ignore the concerns of moderate Democrats and Republicans. Conservatives call this the “Nuclear Option,” because Senate leaders would be bending the rules of the Senate to avoid any chance of a filibuster.

Bob Dove, Senate Parliamentarian until 2001 and current professor at George Washington University, explained the reconciliation process to The Hill as such:

Not only was budget reconciliation created and modified as a means to enact laws to reduce the deficit, which means all the provisions must result in a change in budgetary outlays, but the parliamentarian wields considerable authority to strip anything from the bill that he or she deems to be extraneous, Dove said.  Dove oversaw some budget reconciliation measures in his time and, he notes, ruled out around 300 provisions from a 1995 budget reconciliation bill.Foster argued that the Vice President, who serves as the President of the U.S. Senate, “could in effect commandeer the reconciliation process in the Senate to force through a number of controversial aspects of health-care reform.”

Foster’s piece quotes Dove’s explanation of how the V.P could abuse his authority to pass the reconciliation aspect of ObamaCare in the Senate with a simple majority.  The bottom line is that the Vice President could, with a conspiracy of 50 members of the Democrat caucus, ignore the rules of reconciliation to pass ObamaCare with minimal debate and avoiding the Senate’s filibuster rule.

According to Dove:

The parliamentarian can rule any provisions as “incidental” and remove it from the bill if he or she judges that its purpose is to write new policy not simply to alter the federal budget. “The ‘incidental’ test is a very difficult test because it is very subjective,” Dove said. “You are trying to judge peoples’ motives,” he said. The Senate can overturn the parliamentarian’s rulings with 60 votes — but if Democrats had 60 votes, they would not be using reconciliation. Dove also noted that Vice President Joe Biden, in his Constitutional role as President of the Senate, is the ultimate authority and could overrule the parliamentarian. He added, though, that “no vice president, frankly, since Nelson Rockefeller in 1975, has exercised that right.

Conservatives need to be wary that the liberals are not done trying to pass ObamaCare.  This may be a desperate last ditch effort to pass President Obama’s signature item of his first two year, so be ready for this scenario to play out after the summit, if the summit does not bear any fruit.  For those of you that thought ObamaCare had been laid to rest, remember that it is not over.

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