Does anybody else see a comparison between the DFL-controlled Minnesota Legislature’s decision not to send its bonding bill to Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Democrat-controlled Congress’ delays in passing health care reform in Washington D.C.?
House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, announced Tuesday that even though both houses passed a final bonding bill, legislative rules allowed them not to send it to Pawlenty, who has said he’ll veto it on arrival.
Kelliher said they need a “cooling off period” with Pawlenty to figure out what he wants put in the bill and what he wants taken out of it. Pawlenty, for his part, said Tuesday he had already made that clear in his bonding request to the Legislature.
The bonding bill faces a certain Pawlenty veto, but that could be overridden with a couple Republican votes in the House, while in D.C. it’s the Senate where Democrats need to pick up a few votes to pass the health care reform they want.
But in both cases, it seems that Democrats are willing to throw up their hands and say “well, we tried” without actually, you know, getting something done.
In Washington D.C., Democrats have the parliamentary option of passing a weak Senate health care bill and then pushing through stronger reforms such as the “public option” by shoving parliamentary procedure through a meat-grinder known as the reconciliation process.
That process would allow them to pass budget-related legislation by a simple majority instead of needing 60 votes to end debate and avoid threats of a filibuster. More than 20 Democratic U.S. Senators have signed a letter in support of this procedural path, including U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has said she supports it too, but hasn’t signed the letter yet.
In St. Paul, DFLers have no easy way around a Pawlenty veto except to find the votes to override him. Or, they could send the bill back to conference committee, make changes and then repass the bill if they think they could get Pawlenty’s signature, but then why didn’t that happen in the first place?
By pulling the bonding bill off the table after passing it, DFLers have already contorted their parliamentary rules, and it’s nothing new.
They do it every year when they make a big deal out of setting deadlines by which bills must be heard in committee, then they make special rules for bills that appear out of nowhere at the end of the session.
They do it every year when Kelliher runs roughshod over obstructionist Republicans in the House on the last day of the session, ignoring their points of order and requests to speak as the clock ticks down toward the final deadline.
And of course, Pawlenty is not innocent in all of this, having used legally questionable unallotment powers to balance the budget last year.
It’s not an inspiring thing to watch, this manipulation of the rules in the absence of good-faith negotiations. But when the rules are bent for seemingly no purpose and with no goal in sight, it’s downright depressing.