Very few people are aware of the job of the US Senate Parliamentarian, or the holder of that position, Elizabeth MacDonough.
She has held that job since 2012, appointed by then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
The first woman to hold that position, she is the sixth person to be in that job, since it was created in 1935.
She is designed to be a nonpartisan official who determines what and what cannot be done under the “reconciliation” process in the Senate, which can allow certain budgetary situations to move forward without meeting the filibuster requirement of sixty senators.
Without that, very little could be done in a Senate which for only the fourth time in history has seen an evenly divided Senate.
The 47th Congress (1881-1883); 83rd Congress (1953-1955); and the 107th Congress (2002-2003) are the only times before the 117th Congress, where we have seen such a situation.
So this woman, Elizabeth MacDonough, highly respected, has tremendous power over the Joe Biden agenda, and now has made clear that immigration reform cannot be utilized under “reconciliation”, a blow to action on that issue, which seems unlikely to be able to be overcome!
Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has announced that the Senate will consider a health care reform act with a public option, but allowing an “opt out” by states.
The politics of the Senate makes it difficult to accomplish a public option, since 60 senators are needed to avoid a filibuster, unless “reconciliation” is invoked, requiring only 50 or 51 senators, but provoking a lot more anger and partisanship.
Having said that, it is disappointing that the states will be allowed to “opt out”, as that will provide, inevitably, fewer choices on health care coverage in many states, particularly those that are poorer and more backward in social terms–particularly the South and Great Plains and some Mountain States. These are precisely the areas of less competition among health care plans, and should require the stiff competition of a public option.
The likelihood is that the Northeast and New England, the Upper Midwest, the Pacific Northwest, and California will participate, which will promote more inequities and unfairness and division within this nation, which already has too many elements of the above.
It will mean that where one lives will decide a person’s opportunity for a fair and reasonable cost health care system, and in that sense, this decision of the Senate Majority Leader is disappointing. It is really catering to conservative and anti government interests, the precisely wrong message to send.
Negotiations with the House of Representatives and Speaker Nancy Pelosi may yet change this situation, and it is hoped such an eventuality occurs.