This is my favorite time of the year. After spending three years basically sitting around, using their thumbs to conduct self colonoscopies, members of both chambers of congress, the House and the Senate, remove the aforementioned thumbs, wipe them off, and desperately try to get something, anything done, so that they have at least one positive accomplishment to show the voters when they scurry back home net year to beg for another round of suckling at the public teat.
It’s official. Both the US House and the US Senate are working separately on drug pricing bills, with Trump keeping an eagle eye on the process from the White House. Yeah, right. I think we all pretty well know by now that the only thing that His Lowness keeps an eagle eye on is the driveway of the White House, waiting for the Grubhub truck to pull up.
But this is important. It’s important not only because of the actual subject of the bill, and its importance to millions of Americans, but even more so, it is critically important because of the process that is being used to craft this particular piece of legislation. And as with all things in Washington DC, the devil is in the details.
Normally, legislation originates in the House. They write the bill, whine about it, tack all kinds of unnecessary shit onto it, whine about it some more, and then vote to pass it. If it passes, it moves on to the Senate, where, if things are working properly (ha, ha), the Majority leader calls it to the floor for debate and a vote. If it passes, it goes to the President’s desk for his signature. If the Senate tinkers with it and passes it, it goes back to the House for another vote on the amended bill. It’s all a very dignified, slow motion waltz, with all of the attendant pomp and circumstance.
But this time is different, because this time, each chamber is working on a separate bill on the same issue. Even the rocket rangers in congress realize that it’s stupid and self defeating to sit there and pass two different bills on the same subject back and forth to each other to vote on, so there’s a completely separate process for handling this kind of congressional kerfuffle.
And that process is called reconciliation. Here’s how it works. Each chamber will craft, debate, and pass its own version of the bill. Once both bills are passed in their respective chambers, the majority and minority leaders in both chambers will appoint a team of crack negotiators, usually the ones with the cleanest thumbs, who will then sit down in a conference room, and hammer out a final bill made up of a dogs breakfast of the two original bills. Once the unified bill is completed, it goes to each chamber for debate and an up or down, vote, with no changes allowed by either chamber.
Here’s why the process is so critical. Normally, when the House passes a bill, McConnell just wipes his ass with it and sends it to a committee to die, it never comes up for a vote. And f he does call it up for a “show” vote, that requires a “cloture” vote to end debate and have a final vote, which requires 60 votes. This is where a party can filibuster a vote, by denying a 60 vote margin to bring it to the floor for a final vote. But on a reconciliation bill, the Senate must bring the bill to the floor for a straight up or down vote, with no cloture, and therefor no filibuster. The reconciliation bill only needs a 51 vote margin to pass! Meaning that Moscow Mitch can’t dick around with the bill.
This is a rare opportunity for Democrats to strut their stuff, and they can’t afford to let it go to waste. The goal in the House is to pass the farthest left, most progressive, loaded to the gunwales with wish list goodies that they possibly can. And allowing Medicare and Medicaid to bargain directly with drug companies on pricing, and allowing FDA approved Canadian drugs to be imported should be at the top of the list. The Democrats in the House are never going to get everything they ask for, obviously, but it means that the compromise should be more favorable. And never should the opportunity for a favorable compromise be higher for the democrats. Because those 23 Republican Senators up for reelection in 2020 have jack shit to show their constituents for the last 6 years, and a reputation for obstruction of popular And the more benefits they can show their constituents in this bill, the better their arguments for another six years of being flaming assholes. And at this point, Trump will pretty much sign anything that gives him a chance to say that he actually got something done.
So there you have it. The standard Hunger Games season in search of votes is finally upon us, and rarely has there been a better opportunity, or a better vehicle for Democrats to flex their muscles. And it’s all good, because this would be a nice trophy for Democratic incumbents to take home and lift over their heads at rallies to their constituents too. Let the games begin.
To know the future, look to the past. before the insanity of the 2020 election, relive the insanity of the 2016 GOP primary campaign, and the general election, to see how we got to where we are. Copies of President Evil, and the sequel, President Evil II, A Clodwork Orange are available as e-books on Amazon, at the links above. Catch up before the upcoming release of the third book in the trilogy, President Evil III: All The Presidents Fen