Alan Frumin Is Playing an Important Role in the Healthcare Reform Debate

A little-known star in achieving healthcare reform is Alan Frumin, the Senate’s Parliamentarian, who wields as much power over the debate as President Barack Obama.  A scholar of Senate procedure, Frumin is one of the few people who fully comprehend the arcane rules that govern a piece of legislation’s progress on the Senate floor. Though Frumin is technically an advisor to the Democratic majority – who gave him the job — Senators can rule on procedures as he recommends or ignore him and act as they please.Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin is in the healthcare reform hot seat.

Frumin is in the spotlight because of the possible use of reconciliation, the parliamentary shortcut that lets the Senate pass legislation with a 51-vote majority instead of the usual 60. According to the Byrd rule of 1985 – named for its author, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) – reconciliation is intended to be used only with budget-related items.  In keeping with that, Frumin has said that reconciliation must be related to existing law.  Frumin’s ruling is that the House of Representatives must pass the Senate healthcare plan, send it to President Obama for his signature, and then vote to pass the “fixes” proposed by the president.

Once the vote reached the Senate, Frumin found two errors in the legislation, which meant that the bill had to go back to the House after Senators voted to approve by a 56-43 margin.  The House voted its final approval in a 220 – 207 vote and was sent back to President Obama’s desk for his final signature.

The parliamentarian’s advice is not set in stone.  Vice President Joseph Biden, in his role as Senate president, can overturn the parliamentarian’s ruling.  “This is probably the most difficult situation for any Senate parliamentarian in my memory,” said Robert Dove, who previously held the position.  “I was never under the pressure that Alan Frumin is under right now.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply