I've been reading some of the comments on the story I posted about the Vice President being able to overrule the Senate Parliamentarian, and I thought I would respond to a few of you collectively here. 

One viewer wrote:

"NOT TRUE. The Vice President is the President of the Senate, but has no powers other than casting a Vote in the case of a tie...In this article, the VP has no such power as defined in the Constitution. What are Senate Rules vs Constitutional Authorities for VP?"

 

You are forgetting the Budget Act of 1974.  This particular bill, with some additions in later years, governs the process of reconciliation, which the House set in motion today.

The Senate Parliamentarian plays an advisory role in the Senate, but over time, it has become the custom to accept his ruling without question.  

 

Former Senate Parliamentarian Bob Dove confirmed the VP's power to overrule, as do both experts in the Senate chamber -- the chairman and Ranking Republican of the Budget Committee.

 

Check this out -- an excellent conversation about the filibuster (including some straying into reconciliation), in which Dove confirms the Parliamentarian's role (it's kind of long - 1hr, 27 mins):

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/id/220941

 

Also -- remember this:

Reconciliation in the Senate mandates 20 hours of debate followed by a "vote-a-rama" -- this is literally 2 minutes of debate with a vote every 10 minutes.   The Senate turns into a circus.   Senators have condemned "vote-a-rama" in the past as anti-democratic --- with members not sure of what they're voting on.

 

Republicans, according to Dove, can offer as many amendments as they can write.  

 

They can also challenge various aspects of the Democrats' bill, if there are items involving policy, as opposed to having a direct effect on the budget.  This is called a "Byrd rule" point of order, named for the senator.  The Parliamentarian must rule whether or not that provision violates the Byrd rule or not.

 

All of this said, it is not likely there will be many, if any, challenges of this nature, as Democrats are working hard behind the scenes in consultation with the Parliamentarian to scrub their bill free of these challenges.

 

And don't think that there is anything nefarious in this, though. Republicans consult with the Parliamentarian, as well, on items they believe might be challengeable.   That's just how the members prepare for this kind of debate.  It makes the floor proceedings less messy.

 

Now -- consider this possibility.

 

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-IL, said recently that "there is no precedent" for unlimited amendments in reconciliation.  Durbin said at some point, Democrats will move to stop the voting.  Presumably, that would be done by the Presiding Officer, who is likely going to be Biden when the health care reconciliation bill is on the Senate floor.

 

So -- at some point, we could see Biden stopping the vote on health care and moving the chamber to final passage, with 51 votes needed to pass the bill.  There is even a scenario where Biden could cast the 51st vote, thereby allowing 9 Democrats to vote "no."