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Your Guide to the House Health Care Vote

March 20, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

After more than 13 hours and 80 amendments later, the Rules Committee adjourned on Saturday night with a rule in place to allow the House of Representatives to debate and vote Sunday on the health care bill and the package of fixes in the reconciliation bill. As announced earlier in the day, there will be no “deem and pass” straegy employed. The health care bill and the reconciliation bill conatining the “fixes” will get straight up-or-down votes.

In total, it’s expected that there will be seven votes held throughout the day. Two on the rule, two on budget points of order, one on a Republican motion to recommit, and one each on the two bills that will be voted on. All of the votes will require a simple majority of 216 “ayes” to pass. All the action is expected to start at about 1 p.m. ET. Here’s your guide to Sunday’s floor debate as the Democrats take this monumental step towards finalizing Congress and President Obama’s health care reform effort.

1) Debate of the rule — At 1 p.m. ET, the Chair of the House Committee on Rules, Rep. Louise Slaughter [D, NY-28], will officially start the health care debate by calling up the “rule,” H.Res.1192, that will govern it.

2) Vote on ending debate of the rule — After one hour of debating the rule, the House will take up a “previous question motion,” which, essentially, asks if the House is ready to end debate on the rule and begin debate of the actual legislation. It’s possible that this will be agreed to unanimously by voice vote — these kinds of motions typically are simply agreed to, but with the health care debate it’s not safe to expect the typical.

3) Voting on the rule — Having voted to end debate of the rule, the House will then vote on approving the rule itself.

4) Health care debate begins — The Senate health care bill and the package of fixes contained in the reconciliation bill will happen at the same time under the rule approved on Saturday night. The rule allows for two hours of debate to be equally divided between the Republicans and the Democrats.

5) Vote on budget point of order — The rules allows Republicans to raise a point of order agains the bill under clause 10 of House rule XXI, otherwise known as “paygo.” They would have to make an agument that, contrary to the CBO, the bill would raise the deficit. A Democratic motion to waive the point of order will be voted on.

6) Vote on the health care bill — After two hour of debate, the House will vote on a motion to agree to the Senate amendments to H.R.3590, a.k.a. the Senate health care bill.

7) Debate of the reconciliation bill begins — After the House approves the Senate health care bill, they will immediately take up the package of fixes contained in the Reconciliation Act of 2010. The rule, which will have been approved earlier in the day, states that the 153-page amendment released by the Democrats on 3/17 and the 9-page amendment to that amendment released on 3/20 will be deemed adopted as the text of the reconciliation bill.

8) Vote on budget point of order — Again, the Republicans are allowed to raise a paygo objection at this point. If they raise the objection, the House will vote on a Democratic motion to waive it.

9) Vote on a Motion to recommit — House Republicans will be given one last chance to kill or severely alter the reconciliation bill with a motion to recommit. The basic idea of a motion to recommit is that it would send a bill back to the committee it came from for a revision. The Democrats are required to allow the Republicans to have this vote by a House rule that was established by the Republicans in the 104th Congress. The Republicans will likely use the motion to recommit to force a vote on an issue related to the bill that some Democrats would want to vote in favor of, like stronger abortion funding restrictions or a repeal the individual mandate. The text of the motion to recommit does not have to be released beforehand and only gets ten minutes of debate before being voted on. This is the big potential pitfall the Democrats face in getting the reconciliation bill through the House. David Waldman at Congress Matters has more details.

10) Vote on the reconciliation bill — If the Democrats can stick together to overcome the Republican motion to recommit, they will then hold a final vote on the reconciliation bill. According to Ezra Klein, this vote will take place at around 9 p.m. ET.

11) Fin — if the reconciliation bill passes, it gets sent to the Senate for debate and votes next week. The Senate health care bill, having been passed earlier, will enter the enrollment process (.pdf) in preparation to be signed into law by President Obama. It’s still not clear whether Obama will sign the health care bill right away, or whether he’ll wait for the reconciliation bill to pass the Senate and sign both of them into law at the same time.


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