With a vote on the health care reform bill looming in the U.S House of Representatives, “Mornings unPHiltered” welcomed former Congressional staff and 2008 candidate for the U.S. Senate Josh Lanier on the program to discuss the political machinations happening behind the scenes on Capitol Hill.
Lanier has 36 years of experience working in Washington D.C. having served on the staffs of Senator Herman Talmadge and Congressman Bob Leggett. He served as the Director of Congressional Relations for the National Cable Television Association and as Director of Public Affairs for the Manufactured Housing Institute. He was also the Executive Trustee of the Presidential Yacht Trust and later Vice Chairman of LightStream Technologies.
Lanier said the basic legislative processes for passing health care reform bill are already completed and he laid out the timeline of health care reform up to this point. He said there was originally five health care reform (HCR) bills under consideration by the US House of Representatives before the chamber passed its version late last summer. The US Senate passed their version on Christmas Eve. Lanier pointed out that the House and Senate must pass identical bills before it can be sent to the President for his signature.
As such, Lanier said the reason the HCR bill has not already become law is because of disagreements within the Democratic Party – between members of the House and Senate on certain provisions. He said the HCR bill is not being rewritten, but instead Democratic members are trying to iron out minor difference between the two versions.
Lanier said a better way to understand the situation is to think about “majority party” when referring to Democrats and “minority party” instead of Republicans. He said the minority party always fights to the very end to keep the bill from being passed using parliamentary procedures while the majority party does what it can to get the legislation pushed through. In the past, the same techniques being used to get the HCR bill approved have been used to get many other pieces of legislation passed, regardless of which party was in the majority.
In order for a bill to become law, an identical version of the bill must be passed by the House and Senate. Lanier said this can be done in a number of ways. First, one chamber can agree to the wording of the other chamber’s bill, pass it, then send it to the President. Also, the two bills could go to a conference committee, which is a committee made up of Congressmen and Senators that try to compromise between the two bills. Lanier said this can present problems for the majority party since the bill that comes out of the conference committee must then be passed by both chambers, which then subjects the bill to procedural roadblocks like a Senate filibuster.
The other way, currently being attempted by the House, is to pass a reconciliation bill with a self-executing provision. According to Lanier, the reconciliation bill would make modifications to the Senate bill and would have to be passed by the Senate before the modifications took effect.
The self-executing provision is a House rule that has been around since the 1930s and has been utilized by both parties to pass legislation. Lanier said it has been used 30 or 40 times over the past eight years and was even used by the Republican Party, when Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House under President Bill Clinton, to get the welfare reform bill passed.
Lanier said people who are saying a vote on the reconciliation bill is not actually a vote on the Senate version of the HCR bill are being disingenuous. He said the language is very clear – if the reconciliation bill passes in the House then the Senate version of the HCR bill is also passed under the self-executing provision. The result is, according to Lanier, that Congress has passed Health care reform.
At that point, the reconciliation bill, which would amend or deleted some provisions of the HCR bill that was passed moments before, would head to the Senate for approval.
Lanier said he expects an up-or-down vote on the reconciliation bill sometime this weekend.