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Cannon on Nuking Obamacare

Michael Cannon has made a suggestion, resembling my last post in some respects, that the new Republican majority in the Senate use the nuclear option for purposes of repealing the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. However, for some reason Cannon recommends that the Senate proceed by way of reconciliation, a cumbersome process that is unnecessary if the nuclear option is going to be invoked.

It is true that the nuclear option could be used in conjunction with reconciliation (by, for example, exempting an Obamacare repeal provision from all budget-reconciliation points of order), but it is equally true that it could be used to overcome filibusters of a straight Obamacare repeal bill outside the reconciliation process. For that matter, the Senate could “nuke” all filibusters against measures offered by left-handed senators from states that begin with the letter “M.” That is the joy of making arbitrary exceptions to regular order.

It is also curious that Cannon recommends the Senate formally change the Senate rules in order to repeal Obamacare. This is not how the nuclear option was used last year. The Senate did not change its rules to exempt non-Supreme Court nominations from the filibuster. It simply ruled, for unexplained reasons, that such nominations were not subject to filibuster. What would be the point of formally changing the rules through a procedure premised on the notion that the rules are meaningless?

I suspect we are going to hear many arguments about Senate procedure in the upcoming year. These arguments will be marked by confusion unless they understand the nature of what the Senate did when it invoked the nuclear option. We not in a Cinderella Senate but an Alice in Wonderland Senate.

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