Friday, March 5, 2010

Reconcile This!

The dynamic duo of Joe Biden and Barack Obama are a great tag team. Talk about Gaffe and Awe! Vice President Biden was caught off camera during the February 25, health care summit, mumbling "It's easy being the vice president. You don't have to do anything." Later, during a break in the summit, Biden is heard by one of the network microphones responding to another member of Congress who said to the veep: "It's like being the grandpa and not the parent," referring to how easy being the number two guy is. Biden's quick response: "Yeah, that's it!"

That was such a prescient moment for Mr. Biden. After all, as the health care debate in Congress reaches its penultimate hour, with the Democrats seeking to invoke parliamentarian folly as in reconciliation, 'Granpa Joe' is in line to, well - do something important. The current Senate Parliamentarian - Alan Frumin - has the ignominious task of determining procedurally, if the health care bill proposal passes the 'Byrd Rule.'

Named after Senator Robert Byrd, the rule was added as an amendment to the original Budget Reconciliation Act of 1974. This act was primarily put in place to level the playing field between the executive and legislative branches of government. It was also put in place so one party in Congress wouldn't overuse or circumvent the system. The reconciliation act also allowed for the creation of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Thus, Congress could now have a little say in budgetary matters juxtaposing the CBO up against the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) - which functions as the budgetary arm of the White House.

Meanwhile, as the Republicans, the Democrats, the media and the public alike argue over the 'proper' use of reconciliation as an option, Joe Biden is now in a very unique situation. Even though Frumin is the congressional arbiter, it is the President of the Senate, that'd be Mr. Biden, who would ultimately rule which parts of the health care bill are budgetary (can be marked up) or are process-oriented. Any non-budgetary portion of the bill cannot be used - hence the 'Byrd Rule.'

Thus, Vice President Joe Biden might just have to earn his keep in the near future and act more like the 'Parent' and less like 'Grandpa.'

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