Senate Parliamentarian: Democrats Can’t Use Reconciliation for Pro-Abortion Bill

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 11, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Parliamentarian: Democrats Can’t Use Reconciliation for Pro-Abortion Bill

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 11
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — In what may be a blow to Democrats and their effort to push the pro-abortion health care bill through Congress, the Senate parliamentarian has ruled that Senate Democrats can’t use the controversial reconciliation process to make the changes needed to get enough votes for the Senate bill in the House.

But that hasn’t stopped Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from notifying Republicans that he plans to use the process anyway.

The Senate Parliamentarian issued a ruling saying President Barack Obama must sign the pro-abortion health care bill first because Congress can use reconciliation to make changes to it as federal law.

One idea Democrats had been exploring to ensure enough votes for the abortion funding bill is to have both chambers pass a reconciliation bill first so recalcitrant Democrats in the House who may otherwise vote no will be persuaded to support the Senate bill.

Despite the ruling, Reid sent a letter to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying he will attempt to use the reconciliation process to get changes made to the Senate bill.

"We plan to use the regular budget reconciliation process," the letter says.

“Reconciliation is designed to deal with budget-related matters, and some have expressed doubt that it could be used for comprehensive health care reform that includes many policies with no budget implications. But the reconciliation bill now under consideration would not be the vehicle for comprehensive reform — that bill already passed outside of reconciliation with 60 votes,” Reid wrote

Philip A. Klein, a writer at the conservative American Spectator, says the ruling a big blow for Democrats and their chances of getting the pro-abortion bill passed.

"The Senate parliamentarian has delivered a blow to Democratic efforts to pass health care legislation," he writes.

"While this wouldn’t make it impossible for Democrats to pass a health care bill, if the report is accurate, it would make the route to passage more difficult," Klein explains.

That is "because House members would have to take a leap of faith in voting for a Senate bill that they don’t like, based only on the assurances from the Senate that they would act to fix the bill once it gets signed."

Pelosi and top Democrats have admitted that the reconciliation process will not be able to fix the abortion funding and other pro-abortion concerns.

The ruling may not necessarily affect the Slaughter Rule, another option Democrats are exploring to pass the bill.

Under the reconciliation process, the House will attempt to pass the pro-abortion Senate health care bill.

Then, both the House and Senate will go back and approve the reconciliation bill that will make changes to the Senate measure designed to ensure House Democrats will support the bill. In the Senate, Republicans will not be able to filibuster it.

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