Health Reform and Budget Reconciliation AGAIN

Is it too much to ask that when commentators make confident statements about the reconciliation process and health care that they provide evidence for their position? Apparently. No one has yet shown why this cannot be done.

Am I going to have to do this all by myself? Apparently.

Ezra is back, again saying that reconciliation won’t work. And now he’s brought out the big guns: Stan Collender, a serious budget wonk, and Kevin Drum, a serious everything wonk. And once again, they are all wrong — or at least, completely unsupported.

Let’s take a look at the key phrase in both Collender’s and Drum’s pieces. Here’s Collender:

But the only “expert” that will really count in this case is the Senate parliamentarian, who has the responsibility to determine which provisions run afoul of the Byrd Rule.

And here is Drum:

It will be a matter of the Senate parliamentarian tossing out provisions randomly based on his good faith understanding of the rules.

And my response is this: show me the provision in either the law or the Senate Rules that vests this ruling with the Senate parliamentarian.

As far as I can tell from my reading of the Congressional Budget Act, parliamentary rulings are not made by the parliamentarian. They are made by the President of the Senate, otherwise known as the Vice President of the United States.

The Budget Act is a long, complex piece of legislation. I can’t say that I have read the whole thing. But I have read as many parts of it as I can so far, and I have yet to see a single reference to the parliamentarian. I did an electronic search on the codified act for “parliamentarian”, and once again I got “No Results Found.”

Then I did a search for “Chair,” the presiding officer of the Senate, again, otherwise known as the Vice President of the United States. Section 313 of the Act — the precise provision that Collender says is determinative — states quite clearly that any points of order must be sustained “by the Chair.” In all of the instances that I have found in the history of the Act, points of order are either sustained or overruled by the Chair.

Collender, Drum and Klein are serious people: Drum and Klein are serious advocates of health reform (I don’t know about Collender). But quite literally, I am at a loss to explain why they all continue to insist that the Senate has delegated this absolutely crucial responsibility to a staff member. I am more than happy to concede the point. But it must be reality-based.

Give. Me. Some. Evidence. “Because I say so” is the rhetoric of the previous administration.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: