Bush’s so-called brain, Karl Rove was in Indy over the weekend to push a book and sped to criticize the health care vote that was swiftly coming to a reconciliation vote. While here he continued his constant challenge of the use of the reconciliation process for health care reform.
FACT: Reconciliation is already part of Senate procedure, and Republicans have used it repeatedly
Reconciliation process is part of congressional budget process. The budget reconciliation process is defined by the U.S. House Committee on Rules as “part of the congressional budget process … utilized when Congress issues directives to legislate policy changes in mandatory spending (entitlements) or revenue programs (tax laws) to achieve the goals in spending and revenue contemplated by the budget resolution.”
Republicans repeatedly used reconciliation to pass former President Bush’s agenda. Republicans used the budget reconciliation process to pass Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts as well as the 2005 “Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act.” The Senate also used the procedure to pass a bill containing a provision that would permit oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (The final version of that bill signed by Bush did not contain the provision on drilling.)
FACT: Reconciliation has been used to pass major changes to health care laws
Reconciliation has repeatedly been used to reform health care. On February 24, NPR noted that many “major changes to health care laws” have passed via reconciliation. These measures include COBRA, which allows laid-off workers to keep their insurance coverage, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
On NPR, Rosenbaum stated, “[T]he way in which virtually all of health reform … has happened over the last 30 years has been the reconciliation process.” Additionally, during the February 24 broadcast of NPR’s Morning Edition, health policy correspondent Julie Rovner quoted George Washington University professor Sara Rosenbaum saying: “In fact, the way in which virtually all of health reform, with very, very limited exceptions, has happened over the past 30 years has been the reconciliation process.”
The Washington Post’s Ezra Klien reminds us:
Among the odder arguments Republicans are making against the reconciliation process is that the process should only be used for bipartisan bills, and since they refuse to vote for health-care reform, Democrats can’t give their package of fixes an up-or-down vote.
But reconciliation hasn’t been limited to bipartisan bills. Here’s the recent record: The 1995 Balanced Budget Act was passed in reconciliation. The final vote was 52 to 47. The 2001 Bush Tax Cut was passed in reconciliation. The final vote was 58 to 33. The 2003 Bush Tax Cut was passed in reconciliation. The final vote was 50 to 50, with Dick Cheney casting the tie-breaking vote. The 2005 Deficit Reduction Act was also passed in reconciliation with a 50 to 50 vote and a Cheney intervention. The 2006 Tax Relief Extensions Act was passed in reconciliation. The final vote was 54 to 44. This is as you’d expect: If bills had overwhelming bipartisan majorities, they wouldn’t need to go through reconciliation.
As it happens, Republicans controlled the Senate during each and every one of these bills. And they got less votes than Democrats will likely get for the health-care fixes. It’s also worth reminding people that it’s harder for Democrats to get Republican votes because voters elected a lot more Democrats in the past two elections. Republicans had a number of moderate Democrats who could be brought into a 58-vote majority, and Democrats don’t have as many moderate Republicans who can do the same.