Saturday, October 17, 2009

Senate Procedure. What happens if the Health Care bill goes to the floor without a Public Option

From David Waldman in a Comment at Daily Kos

If the bill comes to the floor with no public option in it, and the "deal" is that opponents are to be allowed a vote on an amendment that would add it in, here's what will happen:
  1. The "deal" will be a unanimous consent agreement that the public option amendment (and possibly other amendments) will require 60 votes to pass
  2. The public option amendment will garner majority support on the Senate floor -- say, around 55 votes -- but because Senators agreed unanimously that 60 would be needed, the amendment would fail
  3. The Senate would pass a bill with no public option, and would go to conference with the House to settle that difference (and all others)
  4. The House and Senate would vote on whatever settlement they reach in conference, and the fate of the public option would be in the hands of the conferees

Now, why would there be such a unanimous consent agreement?
  1. Opponents of the public option will threaten to filibuster an amendment to add it
  2. leadership on both sides will know that the filibuster will be useless if there are 60 votes to end it
  3.  leadership also knows that ending a filibuster means:
    •  the trouble of conducting that filibuster
    •  filing a cloture motion which takes one day plus one hour (at minimum) to become eligible for a vote on it. 
    •  the trouble of running out the clock on the 30 hours of post-cloture debate permitted by the rules
  4. So instead of going through all of that, they agree ahead of time to transfer the 60 vote threshold onto the vote on the amendment itself
Transferring the 60 vote threshold directly onto the amendment itself puts the amendment at no disadvantage relative to the hurdle of overcoming an actual filibuster, so in that sense it's not a concession at all. But it does relieve opponents of the public option amendment of the burden of having to go on record as opposing cloture on that amendment. Instead, all they have to do to require 60 votes to pass it is silently assent to a unanimous consent agreement.
Read the diary this was posted to, also by David Waldman: Remember the "Painless Filibuster?" See also: Is there a (scary looking) deal that can help the public option survive the Senate?

1 comment:

Burr Deming said...

The filibuster has become the accepted threshold for even routine legislation. Not good for the public. Democrats, even those who oppose the public option, should agree that a vote on the idea should be held. Frankly, much of the opposition to the proposition strikes me as self-contradictory.

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