Monday, March 15, 2010

Reconciliation Makes Strange Bedfellows

The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, approved by the House of Representatives in September, may be the key to securing passage of a health care reform bill in the Senate. These two seemingly divergent bills have become intertwined because, though there may not be enough votes in the Senate to pass the health care bill, there are probably enough votes to pass the student aid bill.

The reason for merging the two bills would be to make the health-care half of the legislation more attractive to Democrats and Republicans who support the student aid bill, but not the health care bill. The proposed move to merge the bills would allow Senate Democrats to pass the combined bill via reconciliation. The debate about reconciliation has divided the Congress and brought into question the process of creating legislation.

Reconciliation has been used by both parties for more than three decades to overcome filibusters. It has been utilized by the majority political party in the Senate that did not have a 60-vote supermajority to overcome a filibuster eight times: two times by a Democratic-controlled Congress, and six times by a Republican-controlled Congress.

Current Events and the Constitution

The national debate about health care and education has focused new light on the process of making a bill into a law. Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution is a great place to start in understanding this process. Looking at Congress' parliamentary rules and reconciliation process are the next steps in understanding the process.

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