Monday, March 8, 2010

Reconciling Reconciliation

Now that the Democrats are seriously considering using reconciliation to complete the healthcare process, there seems to be some confusion — or deliberate misinformation — about what reconciliation is and how it works.

I’ll make it simple for you. The Senate passed the healthcare bill. They did it back on December 24 with 60 votes. In order for a bill to become law, the House must pass the exact same bill. Then it goes to the President for his signature. (Does this sound like Schoolhouse Rock?) However, the House passed their own version of healthcare, and they’d like some of their ideas in the bill, too. Since the GOP plans to filibuster anything that the Democrats do, re-writing the Senate bill in not an option, so all the House has to do is pass the Senate bill, then later pass a bill — a separate one — that makes the required adjustments to the healthcare bill. This is known as a “sidecar” bill, and the process is called “reconciliation.” But the healthcare bill itself is not involved in the process because it has already become law.

Got it?

The reason I bring it up is because, as Jonathan Chait at TNR notes with exasperation, people like Mike Allen at Politico, who get paid to write about this stuff, don’t get it.

I understand perfectly well how intelligent people who don’t follow this debate closely might not catch on to the distinction. But this is what Mike Allen does all day — and, as I understand it, much of the night and the wee hours of the morning as well. How can anybody still not understand this? I’m at a loss here. Look, there’s an endless list of topics I don’t understand at all. I went through an entire semester of pre-Calculus in high school and was never able to understand what a function is. I still don’t. It’s a complicated subject and I was a lazy student. But this reconciliation distinction is easy, and Mike Allen is (legendarily) not lazy. So, what the hell is going on here?

Good question.