Shortly before midnight on Sunday, Democrats released a 2,309 page health care bill that will start the process of reconciliation -- but don't let that fool you, it's not the actual reconciliation bill with all the changes you've been reading about. Instead, as Rep. Paul Ryan, the ranking Republican member on the Budget Committee, explained to me last week, this is just the "shell" bill -- the vehicle that Democrats need to get moving on health care. Once the bill gets approved (likely Monday), Democrats will send this phantom bill over to the Rules Committee, where it will be stripped, and then they'll insert in all of the actual changes that they've negotiated.
Why all of the theatrics?
Well, under the reconciliation rules in last year's budget, any reconciliation bill would have to have been submitted to the Budget Committee by October 15, 2009. It just so happens that earlier versions of health care legislation cleared the Ways and Means and Education and Labor Committees last year. So Democrats just dusted that legislation off, and are using that as the vehicle to begin the reconciliation process. That's why, for instance, if you look through the 2,309 page bill that was released Sunday night, you'll find a public option, which leadership has indicated would not actually be in the final bill. (Interestingly, the student loan bill is also tacked on at the end.)
Just a "simple up or down vote," remember?
Last week, Ryan told me that Republicans don't have the votes to stop the bill in the Budget Committee and that Democrats will also be able to prevent Republicans from offering any amendments. However, GOP members will be able to offer "motions to instruct" the Rules Committee, that Ryan said will be used highlight problems with the "unprecedented" step that Democrats are taking.
For more, check out Ryan's op-ed in the Washington Post.
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