Former GOP Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said Sunday that the House reconciliation bill designed to fix shortcomings in the Senate’s healthcare reform legislation cannot legally be considered by the Senate, because it would impact Social Security revenues and therefore is not eligible for the reconciliation procedure.
Santorum also says Democratic leaders were well aware of this fact, but effectively “sandbagged” their members in the House in order to push healthcare reform through Congress.
Reconciliation is designed to pass healthcare reform without bringing it back before the Senate for approval. Sen. Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts means Democrats no longer have the 60-vote majority they need to overcome a GOP filibuster, but they are believed to have the simple majority – 51 votes – needed to pass changes in the Senate via reconciliation.
To get the 216 votes they needed in the House, Democrats promised that aspects of the Senate bill representatives found unpalatable, including the Cornhusker Kickback and other notorious deals, would be “fixed” in the Senate via reconciliation. But Santorum says the House fixes aren’t eligible for the reconciliation procedure.
“Here’s the problem,” Santorum told Fox News host Greta Van Susteren on Sunday evening, “according to the 1974 budget act, if the provisions in the bill affect Social Security revenues, it’s invalid for reconciliation.”
The House reconciliation measure proposes numerous changes to the Social Security system. Santorum predicted the entire reconciliation measure would “be stricken” in the Senate, if even one provision affects Social Security revenues.
“Now here’s the interesting thing,” Santorum said. “Mitch McConnell and the Republican leadership have been pleading with [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid to meet with the parliamentarian to get a ruling on this before the House votes. Senate Democrats have refused to meet with the parliamentarian to get a resolution on this issue. So as a result, there’s still the open question.”
Asked if Senate Democrats were sandbagging House Democrats, Santorum said: “My old friend Dick Armey used to say, when he was the Republican [majority] leader and he would talk about the Democrats, he said, ‘The Democrats are the opposition, the Senate is the enemy.’ In this case, the Senate truly is sandbagging House Democrats who are voting for this thinking it’s going to be fixed, and it’s not going to be fixed.
Santorum said the errant attempt at using reconciliation is being done at the behest of the president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The 1974 Budget Act established the reconciliation procedure. Among its many provisions is the statement: “It shall not be in order in the Senate to consider any concurrent resolution on the budget (or amendment, motion, or conference report on the resolution) that would decrease the excess of social security revenues over social security outlays in any of the fiscal years covered by the concurrent resolution.”
There have been many amendments to that legislation over the decades since, however, and it will be up to the Senate parliamentarian to determine if the Senate could legally vote on the reconciliation proposals approved by the House.
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