The Next Step on the Road to Healthcare Reform
7 of 8 in Series: The Essentials of Healthcare Reform
March 24, 2010. Although healthcare reform (what some refer to as "Obamacare") has passed through both houses of Congress and been signed by President Obama, a 150-page set of fixes to the bill still has to be approved by the Senate before the larger bill’s provisions can be implemented. The fixes, also called reconciliations, were added in order to reconcile differences between the House- and Senate-approved bills.
The House approved the reconciliations at the same time they approved the larger healthcare bill. However, the next step of getting the fixes through the Senate won’t be an easy one. No Republicans are in favor of the bill as it’s been voted into law, and many have said they’ll do everything within accepted parliamentary procedure to stop it.
During the next few days, Senators will be able to introduce an unlimited number of amendments to the reconciliation and recommend content changes. They have to spend 20 hours debating the fixes, but they can’t filibuster. Also, they only need a simple, 51-vote majority to pass or fail any recommendation.
All content of the reconciliation must deal directly with bill revenues or spending. If even one new amendment or content change gets passed, no matter how minor, the bill will go back to the House and they’ll have to vote on it all over again.
Reconciliation legislation has been voted on by the Senate 22 times and in every instance but one, the Senate has made changes and sent the bill back to the House.
Although Democrats, who spearheaded passage of healthcare reform, have a 59-seat majority in the Senate, Republicans have publicly stated that they intend to introduce amendments they believe will be difficult for Democrats to vote against, especially in an election year.
If the fixes make their way back to the House and they contain major changes, there is a danger that they may not pass the second-time around. The reconciliations were a key factor in getting enough Democratic votes to push health reform through to passage.
Check in with us frequently. We’ll keep you updated on the status of health-reform reconciliation as it moves through the Senate.