Congressional Republicans have chosen to use the Reconciliation Process as the means to pass their “American Health Care Act.” The Reconciliation Process allows a bill to pass the Senate on a simple 51-vote majority, because it cannot be filibustered in the Senate. But there’s a catch – in exchange for this privilege, a bill brought to the floor under Reconciliation Rules can only relate to the federal budget – specifically, revenues, spending, or the debt ceiling.

  • Congressional Republicans assume that no Democrats will assist in the effort to repeal Obamacare. The corollary to that assumption is that Senate Democrats would use the filibuster to block any repeal legislation Senate Republicans attempt to consider.
  • One way to avoid a filibuster is to use a process known as “reconciliation” to bring legislation to the floor.
  • The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 created the “reconciliation process.” The process allows a simple majority of the Senate to proceed to consideration of a budget bill, with debate limited to 20 hours and no opportunity for the minority to filibuster.
  • Because the GOP congressional leadership is planning to bring the bill to the floor of the Senate under the reconciliation process, they are unwilling to insert items into the legislation that, they say they believe, the Senate Parliamentarian could deem ineligible for the protection and insist on stripping from the legislation.
  • The Senate Parliamentarian is an unelected Senate staffer. Under the Rules of the Senate, the Parliamentarian can offer interpretations of the Rules to the Presiding Officer. There is no requirement, other than tradition, that the Presiding Officer follow the advice offered by the Parliamentarian.
  • If the Presiding Officer chooses to ignore the advice of the Parliamentarian, an opponent of the legislation could raise a Point of Order, challenging the ruling of the Presiding Officer.
  • To overturn a Ruling of the Presiding Officer on a bill brought to the floor under reconciliation rules, opponents would have to muster 60 votes.
  • There are 52 Republican Senators. As long as 41 of them voted to sustain the Ruling of the Presiding Officer, the challenge would fail.
  • To our knowledge, no Presiding Officer has ignored the advice of the Parliamentarian in more than 40 years. But just because it hasn’t been done doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.