Monday, March 22, 2010

A Short, Sincere Prayer for Alan Frumin

Get ready to know a lot about Alan Frumin (right), the Senate Parliamentarian and the guy who pretty much has the health care bill in his obsessive-compulsive control.

The NYTimes says of 63-year-old Frumin, "His rulings on arcane procedural questions may determine whether President Obama winds up signing a health care overhaul or whether the administration’s signature policy initiative collapses." He has been described as "scrupulously non-partisan," which, in this case, may be a bad deal for the Democrats who sent their health care bill to the Senate yesterday with no Republican support.

The bill must pass the Senate without tinkering or be sent back to the House for another vote. That's where Frumin comes in. He can rule that the Repubs are being frivolous with their attempts to amend the bill or he can allow the amendments, thus requiring a re-vote. Here's a short-ish film about what has to go on before we have a real law.

He began learning the job (working closely with Majority Leader Tom Daschle) in 1974 and was appointed to the top job by Democrats in 1987, relieved by Republicans in 1995 and appointed again in 2001 by the Dems. The job is non-partisan; appointment to it is not.

Laurie Kellman, writing in Huffingtonpost, says, "Frumin's outsized influence over health care stems from the fact that he's one of only a few people who fully understands the rule that will govern its progress on the Senate floor. But technically, he's only an adviser to majority Democrats."

It is disturbing that the Senate's rules are so complex that a referee is required, but that's one of the reasons our government is tied in knots these days.

Let's all say a little prayer for Alan Frumin today--to whomever might be listening. He's going to need it.

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