GOP Fig Leaves

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 and is filed under Blog, Elections, Issues

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This morning, Washington, DC awakened to earth shattering news. Mitch McConnell and team were seriously considering repealing ObamaCare. The process was in place, they were doing due diligence and putting the wheels in motion.

It was show time.

Until the Senate parliamentarian said they couldn’t use the budgetary reconciliation process to dismantle ObamaCare. Like truant school children, the response from Mitch McConnell and team was to hang their heads and say, “Well, we tried to do the right thing. . . .”

That is gist of the story that is in The Hill this morning.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Mitch McConnell has no intention whatsoever of repealing ObamaCare. Now or ever.

If you read the story closely, its apparent that the source of the parliamentarian’s concern are “GOP sources.” Read that as either Senate leadership aide or McConnell staff. As far as anyone knows, the Senate parliamentarian has no concerns regarding using the budgetary reconciliation process to repeal ObamaCare.

Team McConnell would 1) like for you to think that she does and that 2) the parliamentarian’s advice is akin to the Ten Commandments, i.e. carved in stone. Once she speaks, it is settled.

If you have been around DC long enough, the story must be read as a trial balloon from the GOP leadership as it intends to claim that the budgetary reconciliation process is not a legitimate way to dismantle ObamaCare and that “because we don’t have the White House, we’re just going to have to wait to see how 2016 plays out before we can take any serious action against ObamaCare.”

This story is a marker for them to turn to and say, “Look, we tried, but as The Hill reported, it’s just impossible to do.”

This is a manufactured story if ever there was one.

McConnell and team will, of course, trot out the obligatory floor votes for full repeal of ObamaCare and hope the conservative movement seal claps for this shiny object. After all, this is why they won in November-to show people they are serious about getting things done. But the fact of the matter is, full repeal votes are simply show votes that Mitch McConnell and team know have no chance of going anywhere.

Now, for the parliamentarian.

For a moment, let’s say that the parliamentarian does have concerns with using the budgetary reconciliation process to dismantle the ObamaCare. Who is the parliamentarian and what is this person’s role in the Senate?

To begin with, the role of the parliamentarian is simply an advisory one that was established in 1935 in hopes of creating a more orderly flow in the Senate during the New Deal. In essence, the role of the parliamentarian was created to house the working knowledge of how the Senate was supposed to operate as more and more Senators spent less time on the floor.

As an advisor, the parliamentarian’s advice is non-binding. The presiding officer of the Senate can take it or leave it. The parliamentarian serves as a reference point, a lexicon so to speak, for new Senators to ask questions of as they serve as the presiding officer of the Senate. Senators may disagree with the parliamentarian. In fact, both the Democrats and the Republicans have fired the parliamentarian when they feel the parliamentarian is disagreeing with them for no apparent reason (Robert Dove being the most famous case, fired in 1987 by the Democrats and in 2001 by the Republicans).

So while the parliamentarian plays a role in the United States Senate, let’s not let Mitch McConnell and team fool us into thinking it is a critical one. It’s not. It’s a functionary role that was always intended to give advice to the chair, not bind the majority into what they could and could not do. At best, The Hill story today was a fig leaf for McConnell and team to hide behind.

And frankly, it was a small one.