Chief Senate Parliamentarian Will Play Crucial Role in Health Care Legislation

Generally speaking, Ms. MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian since early 2012, will allow measures to benefit from the budget’s special, procedural shortcut if they are related to the budget. If not, the provision can be challenged under the “Byrd rule,”

.. That means Republicans likely won’t be able to address many health-insurance market regulations in their first legislative attempt to dismantle the law—Ms. MacDonough would likely rule those to be too unrelated to the budget to merit inclusion in the privileged legislation.

.. Republicans are using as their blueprint a measure repealing the Affordable Care Act that passed Congress in early 2016 under reconciliation, before being vetoed by President Barack Obama.

.. After conferring with Ms. MacDonough, Senate leaders altered the bill. For example, instead of simply repealing the individual mandate—the requirement that many individuals buy coverage or pay a penalty—the Senate simply set the penalty at zero dollars.

.. Parliamentarians are considered nonpartisan and are hired by the Secretary of the Senate, though they can lose their jobs if their decisions displease powerful lawmakers. Then-Majority Leader Trent Lott fired parliamentarian Robert Dove in 2001 over decisions he made

.. Ms. MacDonough, who has worked in the parliamentarian’s office since 1999, is popular with GOP leaders.

“She’s a brilliant lawyer, a thorough and fair referee and a walking encyclopedia of Senate precedent and procedure,” said Don Stewart, deputy chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.).

Cruz suggests ignoring Senate parliamentarian for ObamaCare repeal

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is suggesting that the GOP could ignore interpretations of the Senate parliamentarian if it means sending a full repeal of ObamaCare to the president’s desk.

“At the end of the day, the Senate parliamentarian is an employee of the Senate. Virtually every Republican campaigned promising full repeal,”

.. While the parliamentarian’s role is strictly advisory, Senate leaders rarely ignore his or her advice.

Obamacare’s little secret

Meet the most important person you don’t know.

The parliamentarian is typically a little-known person — at most, MacDonough can sometimes be spotted on C-SPAN quietly advising the Senate’s presiding officer. But when the post has become controversial in the past, it’s often been over the thorny decisions around reconciliation.

.. In 2001, Republicans fired Robert Dove as parliamentarian after he ruled against them on how many reconciliation bills could be used. That was actually his second stint in the job: Democrats had fired Dove when they took the majority in 1987.

.. Her tenure has been so free of controversy that many lawmakers interviewed said they didn’t know much about her, or even her name.

.. “I would hope and trust that her reputation is a straight shooter, because she is,” Frumin said of MacDonough. “She’s a nonpartisan professional. She listens. She’s a very good listener. And she’s very smart. And she will have possibly some difficult decisions to make, but she’s absolutely the right person to do that.”

.. “Every generation or so this comes along,” he said. “But this is what the parliamentarian does.”