Snags Trip Up Health Care's Final Steps

Yes, this is still happening

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You might have thought that when President Obama signed the health care bill into law on Tuesday, the congressional wrangling over that bill would be over. Not so. Both houses of Congress must still pass an agreed-upon bill of sidecar amendments, which the Senate has pledged to pass through reconciliation. Democrats have the votes to make this happen, but very late on Wednesday night, Republicans raised an objection. Two small provisions in the bill do not pertain to the budget, which means the entire bill cannot be passed by reconciliation. Democrats say they can remove the offending lines and proceed, but it's another annoying snag in the year-long health care fight. What is the deal?

  • What's Holding It Up  The Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt reports, "One provision is technical language with no substantive importance, aides said. The other provision is intended to shield recipients of government Pell Grants, which benefit low-income college students, from the ebb and flow of changes in federal spending." The two provisions make up "no more than 16 lines" in the dictionary-sized bill.
  • GOP Shutting Down Committees  The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim reports that Senate Republicans are striking back at Democrats by deploying every obstruction they can. That now includes limiting committee hearings to two hours and restricting them to specific times of day, shutting down the Senate's ability to conduct business.
  • Even More GOP Stalls  The New York Times' David Herszenhorn recounts, "Before the discovery of the parliamentary issues, Democrats defeated more than two dozen Republican amendments or other proposals aimed at derailing the legislation or making changes that would delay it by forcing an additional vote in the House."
  • Shows Senate, House Working Together  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder sees unparalleled cooperation between Democrats after a long year of anything but. "The thick wall of mistrust that's been erected between the two chambers thins a bit. The more Democrats work cooperatively, the more they can get done."
  • Makes Procedural Reform More Likely  Liberal blogger Chris Bowers suggests all the GOP tactics are just ensuring that Democrats inevitably turn their eyes towards reforming the procedural rules of Congress. "There is only one way that this is all going to end.  In just a few years, the filibuster will be abolished, and by the end of the decade there will be a wave of rule changes that will make the Senate pretty much just like the House."
Basically the culture of the Senate seems to be that everyone in the minority has the power to completely [mess] things up when they want to, and that works ok as long as people show a little restraint and only invoke those powers occasionally. But now the Republicans are going Galt with grumpy old McCain and shutting down committee meetings along with everything else. It'd be nice if Dems finally started to acknowledge that the Greatest Deliberative Body In The History Of The Multiverse basically sucks and need to be changed.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.