4/26/2009

What might happen if the Democrats use Reconciliation to Pass their Health Care Bill

From Roll Call:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who was a member of the 2005 bipartisan “Gang of 14” that negotiated a deal on President George W. Bush’s stalled judicial nominees, said he would be willing to tap into the Senate’s parliamentary arsenal to block the majority from pursuing its agenda.

Similarly, National Republican Senatorial Committee John Cornyn (Texas) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) predicted that the GOP Conference would respond to Democrats’ use of reconciliation on health care with tough action.

Hatch, a key negotiator on health care reform, early in his Senate career successfully filibustered a union-backed labor bill even though Democrats controlled the chamber. He acknowledged he wouldn’t be able to stop the Democrats from using reconciliation to pass heath care this year, but strongly cautioned Democrats against using it. Reconciliation, if included in a final budget resolution, would allow Democrats to advance health care — or other major policy proposals — on a simple majority vote, rather than the 60 required under regular order.

“There would be a lot of things done” in retaliation, Hatch said. “I know what to do; I’ve been there.” . . . .


Former Senator John Sununu has this piece in the WSJ.

Late last week President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders agreed to use "budget reconciliation" if necessary to jam a massive health-care bill through Congress. . . . .

It's a radical departure from congressional precedent, in which budget rules have been designed and used to reduce deficits, not expand the size of government. And it promises bitter divisiveness under an administration that has made repeated promises to reach across the partisan divide.

Reconciliation was established in 1974 as a procedure to make modest adjustments to mandatory spending such as farm programs, student loans and Medicare that were already well established in law. Over the past 35 years, it has been used only 22 times -- and three of those bills were vetoed. There are good reasons it has been used so rarely. . . . .

The power of a reconciliation bill is this: Senate rules allow only 20 hours of debate and then passage with a simple majority of 51 votes. This represents a lightning strike in the normal deliberative time-frame of the Senate. The historic precedent of open debate, and the requirement of 60 votes to close debate, are completely short-circuited.

Budget reconciliation was never intended to push through dramatic and expansive new programs. It was created as a way to help a reluctant Congress curb spending, reduce deficits, and cut the debt. Moreover, changes made under reconciliation expire after five or 10 years, depending on the budget. This is clearly not the appropriate process for implementing significant new policies.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Daniel said...

Your assertion that reconciliation is only used to close up budget deals is historically untrue. Both parties have used it to push key elements of their agendas. LBJ pushed through Medicare on a reconciliation vote, and W. Bush pushed through his tax cuts on a reconciliation vote.

6/22/2009 3:21 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Well, apparently Roll Call and the WSJ view it somewhat differently.

6/23/2009 11:19 AM  

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