Senate Republicans are considering voting on "skinny repeal", which most of them insist they do not want to actually become law (because among other things, it repeals the individual mandate with nothing to replace the incentive for people to have insurance, which will cause a death spiral).

My understanding is that the reason for doing this is to pass any bill, so that they can go to a House-Senate conference committee. But some Republican senators are afraid the House will simply pass the Senate bill and it will become law without the Senate voting on it again (either without going to conference, or after going to conference and it could not produce a conference report, or if the Senate votes down the conference report), which they do not want as they do not want "skinny repeal" to become law by itself, so they are seeking assurances from the House that they won't ever pass "skinny repeal" if the Senate passes it.

My question is, why can't they solve this dilemma by simply passing a dummy bill with no provisions in it (or with some dummy provisions with no significance)? Wouldn't that also achieve the goal of passing "any bill" to go to a House-Senate conference committee? This would have the benefit that there would be no worries about the House passing it as the bill does nothing.

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    I'm pretty sure they can't. Passing any kind of real bill requires 60 votes to avoid being blocked. They barely have 50 votes. (not being an expert on the specifics, I'll delete this when someone posts a more detailed answer)
    – userLTK
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 5:59
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    "Why don't Senate Republicans just do X" is an impossible question to answer these days.
    – user1530
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 7:05
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    @blip - "because they don't have enough votes" seems like a reasonably sufficient explanation for any question like that.
    – user4012
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 3:26

1 Answer 1


Nate Silver posed, then answered this very question on the FiveThirtyEight live coverage of the vote.

As a minor amendment to my last post, the Senate bill would need to do something that reduced the deficit by at least as much as the House’s bill to qualify under reconciliation rules. So you couldn’t just rename a Post Office and go to conference with the Senate. But there are lots of things you could do — like [a $133b] “widget tax” — that produced some deficit savings but couldn’t “accidentally” turn into the final GOP health care bill.

In other words, anything that was passed to go to conference would need either at least 8 Democratic votes (for cloture) or at least as much budgetary impact as what the House passed ($133b).

  • I'm not sure this answers the question. It says why a blank bill is impossible, but offers a work-around that also isn't used without a word on why.
    – user9389
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 14:08
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    @notstoreboughtdirt The question was about passing a blank bill. Anything I added about why the GOP chose not to do an alternative would be either partisan or speculation.
    – Bobson
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 14:11
  • From the question: "(or with some dummy provisions with no significance)" which a widget tax would be. I think the core question is unanswerable from outside, but it may be someone has issued a statement addressing these options.
    – user9389
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 15:15
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    @notstoreboughtdirt - Well, it would need to actually tax something, in order to produce the needed budget change. The point was that it doesn't really matter what, since it'd clearly be a placeholder.
    – Bobson
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 15:50
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    Breaking news from August 30th: President Trump signs into law a $133B Widget Tax, tweeting "Widgets are bad! We need to tax them out of existence! Sad!". Protesters wearing widget hats gather around Washington, DC. Tea Party Caucus members have been spotted about Washington, quietly muttering "Mischief Managed".
    – user4012
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 3:30

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