I probably should have put this Letter to the
Editor on the web site earlier, like maybe back in early November
2009 when it was published in the Dover, NH Foster's
Daily Democrat. It was in response to a
rant by a local Tea Bagger named Sue
Polidura, who is a leader of the tiny Republican Party in the
heavily Democratic city of Portsmouth. She was up in arms over the
possibility that the Senate might have to use a procedure called
to get a healthcare reform bill passed. Reconciliation is a procedure
usually used for budget bills which allows the Senate to pass a bill
by a simple majority without any 60-40 cloture votes to open and
The House ended up using reconciliation in
March 2010: they concurred with the Senate bill on March 21, while
using reconciliation to pass a package of amendments which the Senate
supports by a simple majority of just 59 out of 100. This is messy,
but it is all perfectly constitutional.
To the editor:
Sue Polidura of Portsmouth [November 2, 2009 Letters to the
Editors column] was outraged by the possibility that Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid might try to get a health care bill
passed with less than 60 senators. She implies that this is
unconstitutional. However, the Constitution states that the United
States Senate can pass bills with a simple majority.
famous 60 percent supermajority is mentioned nowhere in the
Constitution. There are a few special cases where a 2/3
supermajority is required, but it is perfectly constitutional to
pass a health care reform bill with 51 votes out of 100. The
reason everyone thinks we need 60 votes to get a bill passed
through the Senate is because of a "cloture" rule which
allows debate to continue until 60 senators vote to close the
debate. It is not against Senate rules for a senator to vote for
cloture and then go on to vote against the bill itself. In some
cases (and I think the health care debate is one of those cases)
it is unconstitutional for the Senate to refuse to have an
up-or-down vote on a finished bill which has already been fully
debated in committee and on the floor.
Ms. Polidura claimed
that Sen. Reid was going to use a parliamentary maneuver called
"reconciliation" which was "originally conceived to
break a tie vote." The procedure for breaking a tie vote is
in fact spelled out in the Constitution: Article I Section 3
states: "The Vice President of the United States shall be
President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be
equally divided." Notice that it says that he or she votes
only if the Senate is equally divided, which currently means 50
votes on each side. Vice President Biden will not be able to
change a 60-40 vote to 60-41 (or to 61-40) — although he could
be called on to break a 50-50 tie.
editor: Last week, the Senate finance committee decided to vote on
a health care bill to move it out of committee and be discussed by
the rest of the senate. The problem with that is; that there was
Our legislators continue to disrespect
voters not only by voting for bills they haven't read, but they
have added insult to injury by voting for bills that do not exist.
If fact, the final bill is going to be a conglomerate of five
different bills in the Senate currently being compiled —behind
closed doors- by Senate leader Harry Reid (D) Nevada, and his
lobbyists and special advisers.
Their goal is to pass a
bill through in two weeks; once again attempting to pass
legislation under cover of darkness and push it through before we
get an opportunity to know what is in it. Furthermore, Harry Reid
is threatening to use a procedure called "reconciliation"
to pass this legislation which would only require 50 votes in the
senate instead of the 60 necessary for passing. This procedure is
also known as the "nuclear option" which was originally
conceived to break a tie vote but was not intended to circumvent
the voting rules of the Senate.
I seem to remember
making a pledge for transparency by posting bills online for 72
hours so, we the voters, would have ample opportunity to review
their content. Apparently, that promise was quickly forgotten and
now this concept doesn't seem to fit the template for his agenda.
In the end, it seems we elected just another "typical
politician" who forgets about his promises not soon after he
walks away from his teleprompter.