GOP, Dems Continue Battle Over Using ‘Reconciliation’ To Move Health Reform Forward
Democrats are defending the use of the budget reconciliation in a health care overhaul as "nothing extraordinary" while Republicans are accusing them of "trying to ram through legislation using a parliamentary trick that Republicans say was never designed for such a big bill," The Wall Street Journal reports. "At issue is a procedure called reconciliation that allows the Senate to pass a bill with a simple majority, without needing 60 votes to override a filibuster."
Tomorrow, President Barack Obama is expected to call on Congress to use reconciliation to pass an overhaul, The Journal reports. "White House officials are painting the Senate as a place dominated by obstructionists thwarting the will of the majority." Democrats are also saying that "[t]he Children's Health Insurance Program was created using reconciliation, as was the COBRA law that allows workers to keep employee health benefits after they leave a job" (Meckler, 3/1).
The Hill: During the health care summit last week "the president deflected questions from Republicans about the use of reconciliation to pass aspects of healthcare reform, but he did make clear that he wants to see 'an up-or-down vote'" (Youngman, 3/1).
CNN: "Reconciliation, established in 1974, makes it easier for the Senate to pass bills to reduce the nation's debt. The procedure has been used 22 times, and every president beginning with Jimmy Carter has signed bills that used reconciliation. Even before reconciliation could be considered, Democrats must come together to iron out key sticking points - including abortion and the government-sponsored public health care option. The abortion issue has been vexing for Democrats in the House. Rep. Bart Stupak, an anti-abortion Democrat from Michigan, pushed for measures in the House bill to which pro-choice Democrats were opposed" (Hornick, 3/1).
NPR: Using reconciliation could be a tough road for Democrats, according to former Senate parliamentarian Robert Dove: "Total [Senate] debate on a reconciliation bill is limited to 20 hours. Amendments, that's much harder. There is no limit to how many you can send. And you can send amendments of whatever length and have them read." He added that there are several rules for considering if an amendment can be heard on the floor: "Some are very simple. For example, any provision that has no effect on the budget - doesn't increase it, doesn't decrease it - is not in order. But some of them are very difficult. One test requires that if something actually does (affect the budget), it becomes the duty of the parliamentarian to go into the motives of why the provision is there" (Halloran, 3/1).
Roll Call: The GOP is preparing to wage "war to block this 51-vote strategy - and lay the groundwork for what they hope will be big electoral gains in November. Senate Republicans have already set the messaging component in motion, saying reconciliation would subvert the will of the American people. Still under development is the legislative strategy, which Republicans hope will tie the majority party in knots and force vulnerable Democrats to take politically damaging votes - if it doesn't derail reconciliation altogether."
Roll Call notes that "the most likely reconciliation strategy for Congressional Democrats is to have the House pass the $871 billion health care reform bill approved by the Senate on Christmas Eve and then pass a companion bill with the changes desired by House Democrats" (Drucker, 3/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.