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A Bump in the Road on Health Care Reform

In short, the Senate parliamentarian has ruled that the health care reconciliation bill moving through the upper chamber this week will have to go back to the House. The New York Times reports:

Senate Democrats had been hoping to defeat all of the amendments proposed by Republicans and to prevail on parliamentary challenges so that they could approve the measure and send it to President Obama for his signature. But the bill must comply with complex budget reconciliation rules, and Republicans identified some flaws.

One of those flaws involved the maximum reward for Pell grants, the Times reported, while the second was “a technical matter” that Democrats described as “mostly insignificant.” Neither provision is thought to threaten the underlying bill.

Fixing the flaws, though, means changing the proposal. And because the House and Senate must pass an identical proposal before it can move to the president’s desk, House Democrats will have to stage another vote on the reconciliation package after it passes the Senate later this week.

Congress is scheduled to leave town Friday for a two-week Spring recess. But earlier this week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters that if there were changes to the bill in the Senate, “our members are prepared to vote.” He was talking about staying in town as long as it takes to send the reconciliation bill to the president.

On Tuesday, President Obama signed the larger health reform bill, making it law.

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