Archive for March 22nd, 2010

Choice, Life Groups Slam Obama Order on Abortion Funding

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

As I said in an earlier post, the proposed executive order forbidding the use of federal funds for abortions, is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. At best, it creates a bureaucratic and accounting nightmare, and at worst, it changes nothing in the original legislation.

Pro-choice and pro-life groups on Sunday strongly denounced a deal by pro-life Democrats and President Obama to ensure limits on taxpayer money for abortion services, outlined in a Senate health insurance overhaul now on the verge House approval.

Abortion rights supporters chastised the president, saying he caved on his principles by agreeing to issue an executive order that strengthens limits on abortion. Abortion opponents, on the other hand, said Obama’s pending order does nothing to prohibit spending on abortion services as provided in the Senate bill.

The National Organization for Women issued a statement that it is “incensed” Obama agreed to the deal sought by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and other lawmakers who argued that the Senate health care overhaul allowed public funding for abortions. The lawmakers had been the key votes to stopping passage of the massive government plan.

“Through this order, the president has announced he will lend the weight of his office and the entire executive branch to the anti-abortion measures included in the Senate bill, which the House is now prepared to pass,” reads a statement from NOW.

“President Obama campaigned as a pro-choice president, but his actions today suggest that his commitment to reproductive health care is shaky at best. … We see now that we have our work cut out for us far beyond what we ever anticipated. The message we have received today is that it is acceptable to negotiate health care on the backs of women, and we couldn’t disagree more,” the group said.

The National Right to Life Committee argued that seven objectionable pro-abortion provisions in the Senate bill are unchanged.

“The executive order promised by President Obama was issued for political effect. It changes nothing. It does not correct any of the serious pro-abortion provisions in the bill. The president cannot amend a bill by issuing an order, and the federal courts will enforce what the law says,” the group said.

Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund President Marjorie Dannenfelser said the group was revoking its “Defender of Life” award to Stupak, which was to be awarded at its Wednesday night gala.

“We were planning to honor Congressman Stupak for his efforts to keep abortion-funding out of health care reform. We will no longer be doing so,” Dannenfelser said. “Let me be clear: any representative, including Rep. Stupak, who votes for this health care bill can no longer call themselves ‘pro-life.'”

Stupak, who led Democratic lawmakers opposed to the Senate bill, made an announcement of a deal Sunday afternoon, surrounded by a handful of Democratic lawmakers who had held out their “yes” votes in exchange for a guarantee of no public funding for abortion.

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“What Price Victory?” By Liz Peek

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

President Obama and his Democratic colleagues in Congress are celebrating the passage of a health care bill, heedless of the wound that their struggle has inflicted on the United States. The ugly battle has cost the president his popularity and his credibility, and has undermined the country’s confidence in our legislative process. It has distracted from efforts to right our economic ship and put our citizens back to work. Worst of all, just as Baby Boomers came to distrust government during the Vietnam War, so will a new generation now be forever skeptical of our country’s body politic.

Did President Obama ever have doubts? Did those protesters heckling his motorcade or taunting members of Congress penetrate that shield of self-assurance? Did voters who spurned his candidates in recent elections jiggle his equanimity? Who knows? Certainly he did not, perhaps could not, allow himself to waiver. Instead, Obama became so dug in on his quest to pass a health care bill that the impact of the conflict and the quality of the legislation became insignificant.

I have seen this before. As an analyst on Wall Street, I and my peers would occasionally find ourselves on the wrong side of a stock recommendation. Given our influence, changing an opinion could have serious consequences; it was not easy to lurch from “buy” to “sell.” We could get locked in, knowing that the ground under us was eroding as facts and prospects changed. The longer it went on, the more we forged fact from fantasy and plugged the holes in our arguments with doughy generalizations. I remember the look — that look of bulldog certainty – on the faces of analysts holding fast to a losing proposition.

President Obama has had that look for months. He must know that this bill is a dud. It contains no real reform of the inefficient way medical treatments are charged to consumers and insurers, the ultimate source of spiraling costs. The projected fiscal benefits are bogus; honest analysis shows that the legislation will add to our deficit and drive up medical costs. No sane person can possibly imagine that we will provide medical care for an additional 30 million people without straining our health care infrastructure and pushing prices of doctor visits and medicines higher. Responsible people who have championed this bill have willfully ignored the fiscal tomfoolery because they believe passionately that we should have universal health care in this wealthy country. In their view that is justification enough for this bitter year-long battle.

The full consequences of the health care bill will become visible over time. I doubt they will be positive; most likely the expense will vastly exceed expectations, as was the case for Social Security and Medicare. Let us hope the legislation will eventually be changed to incorporate ideas that could actually lower costs, such as assuring that people have some “skin in the game” in their health care expenditures. Doubtless there will be subtle rationing in treatments; the country’s aging population more or less guarantees that process in any case. Overall, though certainly it will help those without coverage today, the bill just passed will likely mean less satisfactory health care for the majority of Americans.

The consequences near term are hard to gauge. The country is still trying to recover from a terrible financial crisis; millions are out of work and the last readings on consumer confidence were not encouraging. The health care bill will add to our tax burden and raise the cost of hiring workers. It has used up much of the federal government’s incremental taxing capacity. At the same time, states and cities across the country face crippling fiscal deficits that will also necessitate higher taxes and may lead to public sector layoffs. These challenges are not simple; political leaders will need widespread support from voters to make tough decisions. There will need to be sacrifices. Unfortunately, the country is not in a compliant mood. The bitter battle has drawn hard lines in the political sand – ironic for a president who campaigned on a promise to reduce partisan frictions.

Was it worth it? Boosters laud passage of the health care bill as an historic event. Yes, it is – and so was the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Liz Peek is a financial columnist and frequent Fox Forum contributor.

Fox Forum is on Twitter. Follow us @fxnopinion.

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“Obamacare Is the Next Roe v. Wade” By James P. Pinkerton

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Once again, the big issue is abortion. And while the happy-days-are-here-again headlines will be playing big in the mainstream media in the wake of the House health care vote, the cold reality is that once again, Democrats have chosen a politically risky course, which will likely further alienate them from the center-right majority in the country. Indeed, the tricky tactics used by the Democratic majority in Congress to enact Obamacare in 2010 will be remembered alongside the Supreme Court’s divisive decision on Roe v. Wade back in 1973. In both instances, conservatives did not start these political-cultural battles, but in both instances, conservatives are destined to win them.

The dam broke loose in favor of Obamacare on Sunday afternoon, when Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) announced that he was supporting the legislation, after all. Stupak had been arguing for months with his fellow Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, over pro-life protections in the bill–specifically, the absence of a blanket prohibition against federal funds being used to finance abortions. For months, Stupak had insisted that he and as many as 11 fellow Democrats could not vote for the bill as written and passed by the Senate in December, because of those missing abortion provisions. And for a while, it seemed that Obamacare might founder on that issue. Indeed, as recently as Saturday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a letter: “With deep regret, but clear in our moral judgment, we are compelled to continue to urge House members to oppose the Senate bill unless these fundamental flaws are remedied.”

The “fundamental flaws” that the bishops identified were not remedied because pro-choice Democrats were just as firm the other way–and pro-choicers are far more numerous and powerful inside the Democratic Party. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said on Saturday that 50 Democrats would walk away from the deal if the Democratic leadership made any concessions to Stupak on abortion.

But on Sunday, Stupak blinked. Of course, he would prefer to say that he squeezed a vital concession out of the White House; President Obama announced that he would issue an Executive Order codifying the funding prohibition. Immediately thereafter, as part of an obvious arrangement, Stupak and many of his Democratic allies went to the microphones to announce their support for Obamacare. “I’ve always supported health care reform,” said Stupak. But he added, “There was a principal that meant more to us than anything, and that was the sanctity of life.”

But many close observers don’t believe that Stupak’s deal with Obama protects that sanctity. That’s the opinion of most Right to Life leaders, including William Saunders, senior vice president of legal affairs for Americans United for Life Action, who dismissed the efficacy of Obama’s Executive Order in Sunday’s edition of The Washington Examiner; Saunders noted that it could be overturned by the courts at any time, or simply rescinded by the president. Saunders concluded: “Congress failed to deliver a statutory prohibition on abortion funding in health care reform, and an executive order cannot do the job.”

We will find out soon enough, of course, but if history is a guide, it won’t be long before pro-choice activists find some legal or regulatory way to poke holes in Obama’s figleaf of an Executive Order. And then, of course, will come the political backlash from the broad middle of the country. Most Americans don’t like to think about the abortion issue, but when the issue heats up, the majority gravitates to the conservative side of the issue.

That’s been the story of the past four decades, although liberals never saw it coming. To get a glimpse of their thinking, we might go back to The New York Times editorial in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision, published on January 24, 1973. Needless to say, The Times supported the decision, calling it “a major contribution to the preservation of individual liberties,” but what’s interesting is how wrong the Times was about the future direction of abortion politics. The “verdict on abortion provides a sound foundation for final and reasonable resolution of a debate that has divided America too long,” The Times wrote, even as Catholics and evangelicals–once pillars of the Democratic Party–were starting to mobilize against the Court decision. And that was a major reason why the old New Deal coalition broke up.

The enduring power of that conservative backlash was noted, and lamented on the 30th anniversary of Roe by journalist William Saletan, a writer for the liberal Slate.com, in a book entitled “Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War.” As Saletan observed, “The people who hold the balance of power in the abortion debate are those who favor tradition, family, property . . . Liberals haven’t won the struggle for abortion rights. Conservatives have.”

The next year, of course, pro-life George W. Bush went on to win re-election to the presidency, and Republicans made substantial gains in Congress. The Republican hegemony cracked up over Iraq and the economic meltdown in 2006 and 2008, but, as we have seen since then, the natural conservative majority–newly energized by the Tea Parties of 2009–is quickly reconstituting itself.

That’s why so many analysts expect to see huge Republican gains in the coming midterm elections this November. As House Minority Leader John Boehner reminded his forces on Sunday, “A ‘yes’ vote for this government takeover of health care is a ‘yes’ vote for sending hard-earned tax dollars to pay for abortions.” That will hurt, out in the Heartland.

But of course, the fight will go on much longer than that. The abortion issue, like life itself, refuses to go away.

James P. Pinkerton is a writer and Fox News contributor. He is the editor/founder of the Serious Medicine Strategy blog.

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Health Care Costs Reduced By Spending $1 Trillion?

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Only in fuzzy (read that as fake) government math, does spending more money reduce cost.

“We have failed to listen to America,” said Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, leader of a party that has vowed to carry the fight into the fall’s midterm elections for control of Congress.

Republicans attacked the bill without let-up, warning it would harm the economy while mandating a government takeover of the health care system.

“The American people know you can’t reduce health care costs by spending $1 trillion or raising taxes by more than one-half trillion dollars. The American people know that you cannot cut Medicare by over one-half trillion dollars without hurting seniors,” said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.

“And, the American people know that you can’t create an entirely new government entitlement program without exploding spending and the deficit.”

To pay for the changes, the legislation includes more than $400 billion in higher taxes over a decade, roughly half of it from a new Medicare payroll tax on individuals with incomes over $200,000 and couples over $250,000. A new excise tax on high-cost insurance policies was significantly scaled back in deference to complaints from organized labor.

In addition, the bills cut more than $500 billion from planned payments to hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and other providers that treat Medicare patients. An estimated $200 billion would reduce planned subsidies to insurance companies that offer a private alternative to traditional Medicare.

The insurance industry warned that seniors would face sharply higher premiums as a result, and the Congressional Budget Office said many would return to traditional Medicare as a result.

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Bloody Sunday, 2010: House OKs Health Bill

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

More on the government takeover of the health care industry.

Democrats in the House needed 216 votes to pass the Senate’s version of a sweeping health-care package Barack Obama has been pushing with all his presidential might.

They tallied 219.

Democrats hailed the vote as a landmark victory.

“Today is the day that is going to rank with the day we passed the civil rights bill in 1964,” said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. “Today we’re doing something that ranks with what we did with Social Security or Medicare. This is a day of which we can all be proud.”

“This is an American proposal that honors the traditions of our country,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., summing up the initiative in one word: “opportunity.”

“I know this wasn’t an easy vote for a lot of people. But it was the right vote,” added President Obama. “This isn’t radical reform. But it is major reform. This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health-care system. But it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like.”

Republicans in Congress, however, who voted in a solid block to oppose the measure that many argue grants the federal government far too much power at far too much of a cost, blasted the bill during the debate as the “mother of all unfunded mandates.”

“The American people know you can’t reduce health-care costs by spending $1 trillion or raising taxes by more than one-half trillion dollars. The American people know that you cannot cut Medicare by over one-half trillion dollars without hurting seniors,” said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich. “And, the American people know that you can’t create an entirely new government entitlement program without exploding spending and the deficit.”

Promoters of the bill have long touted the millions who will be added to health-care rolls and claimed that long-term, the trillion-dollar bill will eventually lead to deficit reduction.

Critics say that the bill’s supporters have used accounting tricks to keep hundreds of millions of dollars in expenses out of the fine print. They cite several strikes against the reform attempt, from the cost of yet another taxpayer-funded entitlement to the general principle that nowhere in the U.S. Constitution – which sets limits on the federal government’s powers – is there an authorization to force people to buy the health-insurance program a federal bureaucrat picks out.

Above all, Republicans countered Pelosi’s contention that the health-care bill is “an American proposal that honors the traditions of our country.”

“This debate is not about the uninsured; it’s about socialized medicine,” argued Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., on the House floor. “Your multi-trillion-dollar health-care bill continues the Soviets’ failed Soviet socialist experiment. It gives the federal government absolute control over health care in America. … Today Democrats in this House will finally lay the cornerstone of their socialist utopia on the backs of the American people.”

Leading up to today’s historic vote, Speaker Pelosi was widely reported as scrambling to secure enough support to pass the legislation.

Her efforts were bolstered earlier in the day when a key contingent of holdout Democrats, led by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., struck a compromise with the White House on the issue of abortion funding.

Assured that the president would issue an executive order restricting federal dollars from funding abortion, Stupak and several pro-life Democrats who had been sitting on the fence sided with their party peers in voting for the legislation.

“Following the recent passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that federal funds are not used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered),” the text of the planned executive order reads. “The Act maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly-created health insurance exchanges. Under the Act, longstanding Federal laws to protect conscience remain intact, and new protections prohibit discrimination against health care facilities and health care providers because of an unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”

“It’s with the help of the president and the speaker we were able to come to an agreement to protect the sanctity of life in the health-care reform,” Stupak announced to reporters. “There will be no public funding for abortion in this legislation.”

Republicans, however, warn that Stupak made a tenuous trade-off at best, one that could easily come back to bite abortion opponents.

“That is not the rule of law. That’s the rule of man. One man can sign an executive order and one man can repeal that again, the president of the United States,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., appearing on “Fox News Sunday” before the deal was announced. “So for those of us in the pro-life movement – and my Democrat friends who are pro-life – that doesn’t cut it. An executive order is not something that is permanent law.”

“From a pro-life prospective, I find absolutely no comfort in this executive order,” added Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa. “This puts the fate of the unborn in the hands of the most pro-abortion president in history.”

Leading up to today’s vote, the legislation was widely and loudly opposed by a growing grassroots movement of Americans concerned that a government takeover of health care would violate both the U.S. Constitution and personal liberty.

Tens of thousands of people descended on Washington yesterday, lining up in circles around the Capitol, in protest of a Obama’s trillion-dollar plan to take over health care across America.

Actor Jon Voight joined the protests and was blunt in his assessment of the plan and of Obama:

“It is a runaway train for him. And he has no way to put on the brakes. It is very clear that he will turn this country into a socialist America and his bullying and his arrogance can’t stop,” Voight said.

Several states and a multitude of rights organizations have also committed to challenging “Obamacare” in court on issues ranging from the basic unconstitutionality of a requirement to buy health insurance to the secret meetings Obama has held with his supporters such as Planned Parenthood.

Since the central health-care bill has already cleared the Senate, today’s vote will send the overhaul bill to Obama for his signature as early as tomorrow.

Original Link.

House Votes to Pass Health Care Bill, Send ‘Fixes’ Back to Senate

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

As predicted, the Dems have rammed government run health care down our throats. Against the will of the majority of Americans, against all common sense, they have passed this massive take over of our medical care.
The damage is done and is most likely irreversible.
The Democrats, who opposed federal funds being used for abortions, were bought off in the eleventh hour by a promise of an “executive order” from Obama, prohibiting them. This is, of course, smoke and mirrors, as any executive order can be undone as quickly and easily as it is done. I fully agree with Rep. Joe Pitts, R-PA, who said it puts “the fate of the unborn in the hands of the most pro-abortion president in history.” The Blue Dog Democrats were idiots for accepting this.
The so-called “reconciliation” bill aimed to “fix” provisions in the Senate bill, may not ever come to be. It has to be approved by the Senate, and it I’m not mistaken, go back to the house for reconciliation for any changes the Senate may approve. It’s chances of making it to Obama’s desk are actually very slim. I may be wrong, but I can’t see the Senate voting to undo what they wanted in the first place.
There is a bright spot in all this; we can kiss the Democratic party good-bye in November and again in 2012. This will cost them horribly. Regrettably, it will cost the rest of us even more. I believe that our nation, as we know it, is gone.

A bloc of pro-life Democrats turned out to be the linchpin to passage of the Senate’s massive health insurance overhaul Sunday night, as President Obama cemented a 219-212 victory with a pledge to issue an executive order “clarifying” abortion language in the Senate bill.

The House also voted 220-211 to support a “reconciliation” bill aimed to “fix” provisions in the Senate bill that many House Democrats opposed but viewed as better than nothing.

The Senate was scheduled to begin debate on those “fixes” on Tuesday, the earliest day that Obama would sign the original legislation.

The president delivered a statement after the vote, calling the “reform” the “right thing to do” for families, seniors, businesses, workers and the future and “another stone firmly laid in the foundation of the American dream.”

“The United States Congress finally declared that America’s workers and America’s families and small businesses deserve the security of knowing that here in this country neither illness nor accident should endanger the dreams they worked a lifetime to achieve,” Obama said in the East Room of the White House as Vice President Joe Biden stood beside him.

“We proved that this government, a government of the people and by the people, still works for the people,” he said. “I know this wasn’t an easy vote for a lot of people but it was the right vote.

“This isn’t radical reform, but it is major reform. This is what change looks like,” Obama added.

Thirty-four Democrats voted against the Senate bill, whose passage turned out to be incumbent upon the president satisfying pro-life Democrats like Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who insisted on stronger restrictions on abortion than the Senate’s bill.

The Senate bill allows insurance companies who participate in a planned government-run exchange to provide abortions but attempts to create separate accounts for those using federal subsidies who might seek abortion services.

Stupak had claimed he had at least seven votes with him against the Senate bill. They turned out to be more than enough to make or break the bill. On Sunday afternoon, he said the president’s promise of an executive order was enough to win over the group, even though pro-choice groups slammed Obama as a sell-out to their cause and pro-life groups said the order would change nothing in the Senate bill.

Republicans too called the executive order a toothless regulation that does not have the force of law and can easily be overturned with a strike of the pen.

After the vote for passage, GOP lawmakers sought to send the Senate bill back to the House committee with language asking for additional protections against tax-funded abortions like those successfully proposed by Stupak in the House legislation that passed in November.

The president’s executive order does “absolutely nothing to mitigate or change” in any way the Senate’s provisions on abortion accounts, said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.

But Stupak, who was greeted with shouts of “baby killer,” responded that Republicans were merely trying to kill the bill, not save lives.

“The motion is really a last-ditch effort of 98 years of denying Americans health care,” Stupak said. “It is the Democrats who have stood up for the principal of no public funding of abortions. It is Democrats through the president’s executive order that ensure the sanctity of life is protected.”

House leaders on both sides of the aisle gave impassioned pleas before the final vote Sunday night, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praising Obama’s leadership and House Minority Leader John Boehner warning congressional members against defying the will of the American people.

Clearly angered by the impending vote, Boehner shouted at lawmakers that they can not go back to their constituents and claim to have read the bill, saved money, created jobs or acted openly in their pursuit of the legislation.

Saying the actions taken by the House to get the bill passed discredits the Congress, Boehner, R-Ohio, slowly raised his voice as he demanded lawmakers answer simple questions.

“Can you go home and tell your senior citizens that these cuts in Medicare will not limit their access to doctors or further weaken the program instead of strengthening it? No, you can not,” Boehner said to shouts of support from his GOP caucus. “And look at how this bill was written. Can you say it was done openly, with transparency and accountability without backroom deals struck behind closed doors, hidden from the people? Hell, no you can’t.”

Boehner warned lawmakers that they will have to face the music if they vote for the legislation.

“In a democracy you can only defy the will of the people for so long and get away with it,” he said.

Despite his dire warnings, Boehner was followed by Pelosi, who earned an equally passionate response from her Democratic colleagues.

“We all know, and it’s been said over and over again, that our economy needs something, a jolt and I believe that this legislation will unleash tremendous entrepreneurial power to our economy,”Pelosi said. “Imagine a society and an economy where a person could change jobs without losing health insurance, where they could be self-employed or start a small business. Imagine an economy where people could follow their passions or their talent and without having to worry that their children would not have health insurance.”

Pelosi pledged the new legislation would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and save $1.2 trillion in its second 10 years, numbers predicated on unlikely scenarios, including Congress’ withholding its authority to make discretionary spending changes to the bill and future Medicare savings.

But Pelosi said when it comes to health care, all politics is personal for Americans, including those who are denied coverage for illnesses they already have when they try to sign up for insurance.

“It’s personal for millions of families that have gone into bankruptcy under the weight of rising health care costs. Many, many, many, a high number percentage of the bankruptcies in our country are caused by medical bills that people can not pay,” Pelosi said.

“Being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing medical condition,” she added.

After the vote, Democratic leaders spoke to the press. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the majority whip, called Pelosi the most “tenacious” person he’d ever met. He added that the bill is “a giant step toward the establishment of a more perfect union.”

“I consider this to be the civil rights act of the 21st century because I do believe this is the one fundamental right that this country has been wrestling with now for almost 100 years,” Clyburn said.

Earlier, the House voted 224-206 to approve the rules for debating the Senate bill. House Republicans did all they could to slow the increasingly inevitable march toward the overhaul and were joined by 28 Democrats who voted with Republicans against the rule for debate.

Once the fixes bill goes back to the Senate, lawmakers were expected to approve a series of “fixes” aimed at getting rid of special deals for some districts and states, including the “cornhusker kickback” for Nebraska and others made to win Senate support.

Obama will have to sign the Senate bill into law before any fixes bill goes to the Senate under rules designed to enable Democrats to pass the bill with 51 votes, thus avoiding a Republican filibuster. Democrats control 59 of the Senate’s 100 seats, one vote shy of the number needed to overcome bill-killing filibusters from a united GOP.

But senators have given no guarantees they will pass the fixes, which are strictly the wishes of House Democrats.

Any reconciliation package that does get sent to the Senate is facing a block — or at least a delay — from Senate Republicans who will try to use “hundreds” of amendments to stop the fixes.

“We’re not going to try to drag this out forever with amendments, but I do think it’s important to try to amend some portions of the bill and at least use the amendment process to demonstrate to the American people some of the things that are still wrong with this bill,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

Much may hinge on the judgments of an unelected figure, Senate Parliamentarian Allan Frumin, who will enforce the so-called “Byrd rule,” named after the Democratic senator from West Virginia. The rule holds that any provisions in a reconciliation bill that do not firstly and chiefly affect the budget must be stricken from the measures.

“There are some provisions that have — clearly, (the Congressional Budget Office) has scored as having zero or no budgetary consequence,” said Bill Hoagland, a one-time aide to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. “They’re not important, they’re not significant in the grand scheme of things. But just to have one would be enough to create the point of order and, if sustained by the chair, would create this situation where it would have to go back to the House again.”

Of course, the parliamentarian’s rulings are not the final word in the Senate. That authority belongs to the president of the Senate, currently Vice President Joe Biden.

Leading Democrats hinted on Sunday that they may invoke Biden’s authority to shut down the GOP.

“We’re going to deal with honest amendments on substance that meet the test of the Senate rules,” Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “But there is going to come a point when the American people and the people in the Senate are going to say this really isn’t about substance, it’s all about politics. Now let’s make a final decision, up or down vote.”

Republicans may also argue that select provisions of the bill impact Social Security, and if that argument carries the day, it would, under Senate rules, effectively kill the bill.

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