The Corner

A Day One Scenario for Romney

In response to my post yesterday arguing that Republicans can repeal Obamacare if they take the White House and a majority of the Senate, a reader writes in:

[A]ssuming the Republicans take the Presidency, Senate and House in the November 6th election, it seems to me that Congressional Republicans could actually get all of this reconciliation/repeal work done in January 2013, thereby fulfilling Mitt Romney’s promise to act against Obamacare on “Day One” of his Presidency.

Given that the new Congress would begin its work on Thursday, January 3, 2013, it appears to me quite conceivable that Republicans in control of both the Senate and the House would indeed have enough time to begin and finish the entire process of budget reconciliation concerning Obamacare just before a Romney swearing-in as President on Sunday, January 20th.  In other words, the 17-day period between January 3 and January 20 should be enough — possibly even more than enough — time for the Republicans to get a reconciliation bill through both Houses and submitted to a “President Romney” by the afternoon of the 20th.

After all, if we look back to the Democrats’ budget reconciliation process in March 2010, which resulted in the passage of Obamacare, that process actually took LESS than 17 days.  In early March 2010, Democrats were threatening to use reconciliation but had not yet embarked on that course.  By late March 2010, they not only had embarked on that course but had gotten a reconciliation bill through both Houses of Congress and submitted to President Obama for his signature.  So, when it comes to timing, this March 2010 fast-track used by the Democrats would appear to be the key thing to take note of.

By the way, because the next Presidential Inauguration Day falls on a Sunday, whoever is sworn in that day will likely take the Oath of Office during a so-called private ceremony at the White House at Noon that Sunday and the traditional public Inaugural ceremonies at the U.S. Capitol likely would be postponed until the next day, Monday, January 21 (with Monday’s events featuring a public repeat of the previous day’s swearing in).  As bizarre as that might sound, that actually has been the Sunday Inaugural tradition now for quite a while.  The most recent examples were President Eisenhower’s second Inaugural in 1957 and President Reagan’s second Inaugural in 1985 (as you can see, the Sunday Inaugural thing hits every 28 years).

So if Romney were sworn in during a private White House ceremony on Sunday, January 20 (just as Eisenhower and Reagan were for their second terms), he could sign the reconciliation bill almost immediately after being sworn in that Sunday, given the fact that his Inaugural Address and all the other traditional events held on Capitol Hill (such as the Congressional Luncheon, the Inaugural Parade and Inaugural Balls) would not happen until the following day, Monday the 21st.  He could literally go right to work immediately that day immediately after being officially sworn in during the private ceremony.

Update: Another reader disagrees.

You have a post on “The Corner” passing on a reader’s email thatargues Congressional Republicans could conceivably pass areconciliation bill in time for a potential President Romney to sign on his first day. I do not believe that is possible, as thereconciliation process’s fast-track procedures are only available ifprovided for in the annual joint budget resolution adopted byCongress. As established in the Budget Act, the annual budgetresolution may include a section that provides instructions torelevant Congressional Committees to report language on an issuefalling with the scope of the reconciliation process. Once language isreported in accordance with those instructions (either by the BudgetCommittee or another specific committee), the reconciliation rulesapply to floor debate on that language. As the official budgetprocess does not begin in Congress until March at the earliest, nobudget resolution will have been considered or adopted by the 113thCongress in January 2013. The lack of available reconciliationinstructions to the committees with jurisdiction on health care wouldpreclude any passage of a reconciliation bill until late spring orearly summer. 

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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