NYT – As Democrats attempt reconciliation, accusations fly about “referee”/Parliamentarian

WASHINGTON — In the fall of 1968, a serious dark-haired young man arrived in the capital to do what serious young men here do: study law. Alan S. Frumin was calm, analytical and possessed of a dry wit. To his classmates, one trait stood out. He was a whiz at mastering the mind-numbing rules of civil procedure.

Today, Mr. Frumin puts his procedural acumen to use as the parliamentarian of the United States Senate. Most of the time, it is a quiet, under-the-radar kind of job. Not these days.

As Washington enters the final act of its long-running health care drama, Mr. Frumin — a nonpartisan civil servant who got his start as a precedents writer for the House — is in a starring role. 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.

By Friday, Mr. Frumin had become a major preoccupation for Democrats and Republicans, as they tried to divine his views on whether Mr. Obama must sign a health bill into law before Democrats can use the filibuster-proof budgetary tactic known as reconciliation to make changes to it. In the weeks to come, there will be a slew of Republican challenges to reconciliation.

New York Times
3/14/10