Via Philip Klein over at AmSpec, Roll Call is reporting from GOP sources that the Senate Parliamentarian has ruled the House must first pass the Senate bill — and the president must sign that bill into law — before reconciliation fixes to it can be considered.
House Democratic leaders have been searching for a way to ensure that any move they make to approve the Senate-passed $871 billion health care reform bill is followed by Senate action on a reconciliation package of adjustments to the original bill. One idea is to have the House and Senate act on reconciliation prior to House action on the Senate’s original health care bill.
Information Republicans say they have received from the Senate Parliamentarian’s Office eliminates that option. House Democratic leaders last week began looking at crafting a legislative rule that would allow the House to approve the Senate health care bill, but not forward it to Obama for his signature until the Senate clears the reconciliation package.
“Game Changer” is quickly replacing the various iterations of “under the bus” as the most overused political cliche of our age, but this certainly qualifies as one. And it leaves House Democrats with little but the fig leaf of the “Slaughter Rule” as political coverage.
UPDATE: From The Hill:
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, told colleagues about the ruling Thursday afternoon, according to a Democratic source familiar with the meeting.
[. . .]
Democrats acknowledged the parliamentarian’s ruling was a setback but argued that it does not deliver a fatal blow.
“It’s just going to require a little more trust from the House that the Senate is going to do its job,” said a Democratic strategist.
Democratic lawmakers such as Conrad had thought the Senate could pass the sidecar bill under reconciliation after the House had passed the Senate version of healthcare reform.
“The Senate Parliamentarian’s office has informed Senate Republicans that reconciliation instructions require the measure to make changes in law,” said a senior GOP aide.
The Congressional Budget Office could give the broader healthcare bill an official cost estimate once the Senate and House acted.