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House Democrats are are considering three paths that would lead to a vote on health care by the end of the week. Two of the options would result in the Senate bill (H.R.3590) becoming the law of the land pending a successful vote, while the third option would kick responsibility for making the bill law over to the Senate.

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Let the endgames begin! The pieces of the process puzzle for finishing health care reform are falling into place. The votes are being whipped. And, after 14 months of national obsession with health care reform, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' statement on Sunday that in one week the health care bill will be "the law of the land," actually seems plausible.

Here's the latest on what to expect this week -- both politically and procedurally -- and when to expect it.

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Good News for the Dems

March 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Nobody know for sure what the Parliamentarian will rule, but Politico Pulse reports that sources are telling them something very different from what Republicans were claiming yesterday:

But according to reporting by POLITICO’s David Rogers, the accounts aren’t accurate and misconstrue what the Senate parliamentarians have said. That is that reconciliation must amend law but this could be done without the Senate bill being enacted first. “It is wholly possible to create law and qualify law before the law is on the books,” said one person familiar with situation.

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As House Democrats struggle to round up the votes to pass the Senate health care bill, they're considering using more and more obscure parliamentary rules to help them. Politico reports: "Party leaders have discussed the possibility of using the House Rules Committee to avoid an actual vote on the Senate's bill, according to leadership aides. They would do this by writing what's called a "self-executing rule," meaning the Senate bill would be attached to a package of fixes being negotiated between the two chambers -- without an actual vote on the Senate's legislation."

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Sources are telling The Hill that the Democrats have decided to add a bill to eliminate government subsidies to student loan companies to the budget reconciliation bill that will iron out the differences between the Senate and House health care bills.

Senate Democratic leaders have decided to pair an overhaul of federal student lending with healthcare reform, according to a Democratic official familiar with negotiations.

"It's going in," said the Democratic source, in reference to the student lending measure.

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The Senate health care bill already has language to let individual states opt out of the federal system and set up their own health care system. If a few changes were made to the language using the budget reconciliation sidecar, the provision could help shore up liberal votes in the House.

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The Stupak 12

March 8, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Rep. Bart Stupak [D, MI-1] is threatening to keep the House from passing the Senate health care bill (H.R. 3590) and potentially sink the whole health care reform process unless its language regarding abortion is amended to match the language he added to the House health care bill. The Senate bill already blocks federal funding from going towards abortion services, but Stupak wants it to prevent anyone buying insurance through the new Exchanges from purchasing a plan that covers elective abortions, even if they are buying the insurance plan entirely with their own money.

Stupak says that he has 11 Democrats who will vote "no" with him on the Senate bill if the abortion language isn't changed. That's enough to sink the bill. The names of the "Stupak 12" haven't been released, but Brian Beutler of TPM has whittled down various roll call and whip lists to produce a list that seems like it could be pretty accurate:

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Rep. Bart Stupak [D, MI-1] went on Good Morning America yesterday to say that he has the votes and is ready to sink the Senate health care bill (and the whole health care reform process in Congress) if it is not changed to match the language he added to the health care bill in the House. But Stupak doesn't have his facts straight on how the Senate bill's prohibition on federal funds for abortions actually works.

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This should be fairly obvious. It's a process designed to allow Congress to implement legislation that they have accounted for in their budget without being blocked by partisan tactics. But some Republicans, for example Orrin Hatch, have begun claiming that the process is actually used most often for bipartisan, broadly-supported bills. New research from the Sunlight Foundation show that Hatch and the Republicans are wrong. Of the 13 reconciliation votes that Congress has taken since 1990 (whi...

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Budget Reconciliation and the Constitution

March 4, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

As the Democrats solidify their plans to use the budget reconciliation process to amend the health care bill, a new argument is bubbling up among Republicans -- that what they are attempting to do is unconstitutional. But, in using budget reconciliation to finish health care the Democrats are squarely within the bounds of congressional rules that were established on a bipartisan basis using constitutionally given powers.

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In his health care announcement today, President Obama made his strongest call yet for Congress to finish health care soon and to do it through the budget reconciliation process. "[Health care reform] deserves the same kind of up-or-down vote that was cast on welfare reform, the Children's Health Insurance Program, COBRA health coverage for the unemployed, and both Bush tax cuts."

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The Pitfalls of Budget Reconciliation

March 2, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

It's looking likely that, if health care reform is going to get finished, a package of compromises between the Senate and House bill is going to have to be passed first using the budget reconciliation process. But that leaves the bill vulnerable to the Byrd Rule, which will allow Republicans to object to individual sections of the bill and try to remove them.

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The 6 Parts of the Byrd Rule

March 1, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Byrd Rule, which governs which legislative provisions are eligible for passage using the budget reconciliation process, has six parts. Provisions are not eligible if they fall under one or more of the parts of the rule. According to the Congressional Research Service, a provision can be ruled ineligible for budget reconciliation under the Byrd Rule if -- (1) it does not produce a change in outlays or revenues; (2) it produces an outlay increase or revenue decrease when the instructed...

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Sen. Gregg Defends Budget Reconciliation ...in 2005

February 26, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

This 2005 floor speech on using budget reconciliation for passing ANWR oil drilling by Sen. Judd Gregg [R, NH] is actually a really strong defense of the Democrats' finishing their health care reform bill with the budget reconciliation process:

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The Final Olive Branch

February 22, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The big news with the plan released today by the White House isn't really about its contents, it's about its format. The White House could have put out a full bill, written in legalese and numbering hundreds of pages, and then tried to push it through Congress. Instead, the plan seems to be designed to accommodate new ideas.

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