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Procedural Rules May Impact Fate of Health Care Bill

March 15th, 2010 – Today, members of the House Budget Committee voted 21-16 to use the Reconciliation Act to try to pass the Senate’s health care bill into law and then modify it using budget reconciliation.  All Republicans and 2 Democrats voted against it.

Democrats are forced to use the budget reconciliation process because Senate rules permit budget reconciliation measures to pass with just 51 votes. Normally, they need at least 60 votes  to avoid a filibuster, but there isn’t enough support for the bill to get the 60 votes.

The House would first have to approve the original Senate health care measure and then both chambers would adopt a package of changes in a budget reconciliation bill to make the Senate’s bill more palatable.

However, before the Democrats can make changes using the reconciliation process, there is a procedural rule that will require them to convince Alan Frumin, the Senate parliamentarian, that every change requested is relevant to the federal budget.  Polarizing arguments about using federal money to pay for abortions also may stand in the way of the Democrats coming to an agreement on proposed changes to the Senate Health Reform Bill.

In the mean while, a coalition of 248 business groups that is led by the US Chamber of Commerce has amassed a $10 million advertising budget to try and pressure lawmakers to stop the current health reform bill and start fresh with a new bill.  The businesses are concerned that the current Health Reform bill will hurt companies by adding new taxes and bureaucracy while failing to control skyrocketing medical costs that are driving up health insurance premiums.

If Health Reform is passed into law, it is unlikely to have much meaningful effect on most people that buy their own helath insurance until 2014 or 2013 at the earliest.

Colorado, what do you think?  Should they move forward with the current health reform bill or scrap it and start fresh?

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