by Jonathan Singer, Mon Mar 01, 2010 at 12:58:39 PM EST
MSNBC says we may all be overestimating the power the Senate parliamentarian has over the reconciliation process.
For those unable to watch the video just yet, here's MSNBC's write up:
"The parliamentarian only can advise," [former Senate parliamentarian of 37 years Robert] Dove said. "It is the vice president who rules."
It is widely understood that the parliamentarian would rule whether or not items under reconciliation are germaine to the budget. It wasn't always the case that items under reconciliation had to pertain to the budget. But it had been used so often to defeat filibusters, Dove said, that in the 1980s Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) instituted a the budget rule. It is now known as the Byrd Rule. The parliamentarian currently is Alan Frumin. Not since Hubert Humphrey, Dove said, has there been a vice president played such a powerful role. But as NBC's Chuck Todd, who co-hosts the show, pointed out, perhaps not since Humphrey has the U.S. seen a vice president as comfortable with the rules of the Senate as Biden.
"That's why I brought this up," Dove said. "Yes. Humphrey had been the majority whip. He had been in the Senate since 1948. He felt very comfortable playing an important role. And it's quite possible that Vice President Biden [would]."
It is still unclear the lengths to which Vice President Joe Biden, or the Obama administration more broadly, are willing to go to ensure the passage of healthcare reform legislation. But considering that they may have the ability to ensure that a reconciliation "fix" to the bill already passed through the Senate and on its way to the House -- where, by the way, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is confident she has the votes -- healthcare reform may be more viable than we previously believed.