The Second Day Of Senate Consideration Of Reconciliation "Fixes"

The Senate worked late into the night burning up roughly seven hours of the mandatory 20 hours of debate on the reconciliation bill meant to add "fixes" to the new health care law and reform student loans. Since debate time is limited on reconciliation bills they can't be filibustered and therefore need only the constitutionally required simple majority to pass.

The Democrats are hopeful that the floor speech part of the reconciliation process will end by this afternoon and the Senate can then start voting on motions and amendments. By tradition the reconciliation process allows for unlimited amendments which are all voted on in “relatively” rapid pace during what is called a “vote-arama.” The Republican game plan is to try to poke holes in the bill with Byrd rule points of order and force Democrats to take tough votes against popular sounding amendments -- like Tom Coburn's (R-OK) amendment to prohibit health insurers from providing sexual offenders with erectile dysfunction medication.

In their misguided desire to not change the reconciliation, Democrats are not planning to offer real amendments of their own that could make health care reform better, improve our economy, or help America get better health care. Nor are they even planning to turn the table on Republicans by forcing them to vote against very popular amendments like repealing the health insurance industry's antitrust exemption. It would be a chance to make Republican take a tough vote and if it did end up in the final bill, it is very unlikely to cost them any votes in the House given the overwhelming majority that voted for a stand-alone bill to repeal the antitrust exemption.

This may be Democrats last chance to improve health care reform and try to make it more popular before the November election. Sadly, it appears an opportunity wasted.

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