Maddow keeps pouring it on: We thought about reviewing the Maddow Shows of the past two nights, in which a certain cable news star extended the culture of embellishment which has long since swamped her program.
There's a bag of squirrels inside this particular cable star's head, and the squirrels inside that bag just won't let her go. That said, reports about Maddow's constant embellishments can take a long time to formulate on an otherwise promising Saturday.
Let's look at Elise Viebeck's news report instead.
Viebeck's report appeared in Thursday morning's Washington Post. She addressed a nagging question, a question cable pundits have spent the past week avoiding:
Why do Republicans have to pass the Cassidy-Graham "health reform" bill by next Friday or not pass it at all? What sort of magic occurs on that particular date?
We thought Viebeck did a good job addressing this widely-glossed question. Near the start of her report, she formulated the question as shown below:
VIEBECK (9/21/17): [Republican leaders] face the challenge of persuading 50 people in the Senate to support [the bill] before the end of the month, which would set the stage for Vice President Pence to cast the tiebreaking vote.What kind of carriage turns into a pumpkin on October 1? By what type of necromancy does it take fifty votes to pass the bill now, but sixty votes to pass the bill after that magical date?
There are many questions surrounding this process. But the timing is perhaps the chief source of confusion among congressional observers. Why is it necessary to pass the health-care bill by Oct. 1? Why do Republicans say they have to act in the next 11 days?
We've seen this question glossed on cable about a million times. (Explanations are boring, and hard! Speculation is fun!) We thought Viebeck, in her news report, (almost) got it right.
What happens on October 1? How does a need for fifty votes turn into a need for sixty?
You're asking a very good question. Among other things, Viebecks blames the folderol on "arcane Senate procedure," on the Senate's "mind-bending rules," on a ruling by the parliamentarian and on "conventional Senate wisdom."
Here's the releveant text from Viebeck's report, which left us with a few unanswered questions:
VIEBECK: The answer lies in a combination of Republican legislative strategy, arcane Senate procedure and ordinary partisan divisions.We're not going to summarize that. You'll have to do so yourself.
McConnell and other Republicans can thank themselves for the deadline, which arose from their effort to pass health-care legislation without Democratic votes.
This is where the arcane Senate procedure comes in.
The Sept. 30 deadline exists because of a process known as budget reconciliation, which allows some fiscal measures to pass without the usual 60 votes. Republicans set this process in motion at the beginning of the year, when they passed a budget bill that included instructions for two committees to begin work on health-care legislation with the goal of saving federal revenue. By giving the health-care effort a fiscal goal, GOP leaders qualified that legislation to be passed by a simple majority.
But those instructions expire at the end of the fiscal year that’s covered under the budget bill. Senators could always write new instructions into their next budget, but they were planning to use that opportunity to direct a different legislative priority—tax cuts. Conventional Senate wisdom dictates that the chamber may consider only one legislative priority at a time under reconciliation.
Republicans would prefer to face no deadline at all. But these hopes were dashed on Sept. 1, when the Senate parliamentarian, who helps interpret the chamber’s mind-bending rules, said the GOP’s “reconciliation instructions” would end Sept. 30, the last day of the fiscal year. That is what McConnell mean when he said the opportunity will “expire” at the end of the month.
That said, we were left with two questions. First:
If reconciliation instructions expire at the end of the fiscal year, why did the Senate parliamentarian have to rule on this matter back on September 1? More significantly:
To what extent can "conventional Senate wisdom" actually "dictate" anything? If there's no explicit, unchangeable rule limiting reconciliation procedures to one topic per fiscal year, why won't McConnell simply brush conventional wisdom aside in the upcoming fiscal year? Why won't he simply say that health reform and tax reform will run on reconciliation?
We were left with that nagging question after reading Viebeck's report. On about a million occasions, we'd been left with incomprehension after watching our cable news stars. (Information is hard!)
Meanwhile, there was Maddow the last two nights, submitting to the many imperatives which seem to emerge from that bag of squirrels.
No one escapes from cable unharmed. Maddow has been transformed into an agent of squirrelly, ongoing distortions, entertainments and cons. We'll plan to give details next week.
Who is Elise Viebeck: She's eight years out of Claremont McKenna. As such, she's a ray of light within an often worrisome group—those youngish high-end reporters.