Working the ref

WORKING THE REF…. The Senate parliamentarian will likely be in a position to rule on what can and cannot be considered under reconciliation rules. So, naturally, the GOP is already going after the parliamentarian, offering an example of working the ref and laying the groundwork for future whining.

Senate Republicans are waging a pre-emptive strike against the Senate’s parliamentarian — a hitherto little-known official who could determine the fate of the Democrats’ health care reform efforts.

In interviews with POLITICO, several Republican senators and aides cast Parliamentarian Alan Frumin — a 33-year veteran of the Senate — as someone who is predisposed to side with the Democrats if they attempt to use the reconciliation process to pass parts of their bill.

“I think clearly the majority leader has his ear, and I’ve got concerns,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). “I think if he does not look at that very careful — reconciliation is supposed to be very narrowly defined, large legislative things don’t seem to fit in those parameters — I would think that reconciliation would make or break the perception of his objectivity.”

DeMint really doesn’t seem to realize that Dems have no intention of trying to pass the entire health care reform package through the reconciliation process.

Nevertheless, this push is pretty sad. Maybe Republicans are trying to bully Frumin before he’s even asked to rule on anything; maybe Republicans are trying to cast doubts on his integrity now so they can attack him later. Either way, the GOP’s desperation is getting increasingly ugly.

Indeed, for all the talk about the importance of independence in the parliamentarian’s office, let’s not forget recent history — when the Republican majority didn’t like the previous parliamentarian’s rulings on reconciliation, they fired him.

Try to imagine, just for a moment, what the reaction would be if, later this month, Harry Reid fired the Senate parliamentarian for ruling the “wrong” way on a reconciliation question. Think about how intense the media scrutiny would be, and how loud the cries of outrage would be from Republicans.

And then try to remember the fact that Trent Lott firing the former parliamentarian was considered largely a non-story at the time, and that GOP use of reconciliation was deemed routine.