How do you solve a problem like Murkowski?

“O  Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, how lovely are thy branches”

A Christmas tree is legislation loaded with ornaments, each designed to win votes.  Obamacare passed in the Senate because of two such ornaments, the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase, included to satisfy Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.  In order to win passage in the Senate, you must often purchase the votes of individual Senators with such ornaments.

Being the smart cookie that he is, Ted Cruz understands the Senate rules on reconciliation, which are used to avoid the filibuster.  According to Susan Ferrechio of the WaEx, he says it’s the only way to get Obamacare repeal and replacement through the Senate.  He’s right, of course, and when people understand that passage of this essential legislation hinges on the interpretation of the mere rules of the Senate, I think they’ll support the Cruz position.

I’ll be surprised if this Obamacare R & R bill is ready before September, and then I think it will be rolled into one gigantic Monster Reconciliation, along with a debt ceiling increase, a budget for fiscal 2018, tax reduction and reform, and infrastructure spending.  This will  be the most magnificent Christmas tree in the history of the federal government.  It could be the only major bill that Trump can get passed this year.  One and done.

Writing in The Hill, former Senate parliamentarian Richard Arenberg is appalled at Cruz’s plans.  All Cruz needs to do is get Vice President Pence to overrule the current Senate parliamentarian, and certify that the Monster Reconciliation Bill of 2017 fits within the reconciliation rule.  Pence would need 50 votes to endorse his ruling.

I don’t think he gets the Guardian of the Senate, John McCain.  Lindsey Graham will go along with his hero and vote no as well.  So what will Sens. Collins of Maine and Murkowski of Alaska do?  I don’t know about Collins, but Murkowski can be bought.  Include a provision in the Monster that opens up ANWR (as was done in 1995) and she has to vote for it.  Politically, she will have no choice.

Other Senators may need their own ornaments added to the tree.  Senators are, by and large, reasonable.  Give them some goodies to take home to their state, and they’ll give you their vote.  It happens all the time, and is the indispensable grease that allows the Senate to function at all.

Call it the art of the deal.

This will all cost a great deal of money.  Senators don’t come cheap.  So the one area the Monster won’t deal with is deficit spending.  I think we’ll wind up adding to the debt between half a trillion and a trillion.  This problem will have to be addressed in 2018, with passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment through the use of Article V.

Our Phoenix Convention of States starts on September 12th, just as the circus in Congress over the Monster Reconciliation is getting hot.

Our timing couldn’t be better.

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