Sunday, March 07, 2010

Whining About Reconciliation

There is some bizarre reasoning going on with Republicans. In the roundtable portion of today's Meet the Press, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) argued

And let me tell you, the reconciliation rules have never been used for such sweeping social legislation like this. This is one-sixth of the American economy. It's sweeping in, in effect. There--and, and, and there have been three sweeping social bull--not sweeping, but social bills that have been approved through reconciliation. One was, of course, the, the welfare reform. That had 78 positive votes, but--huge bipartisan vote. Another one was the SCHIP bill, my bill with Senator Kennedy. That had 85 votes. The third one was college tuition, and that had, I think, something like 78 votes. The fact of the matter is, is that it has never been done before, it's never been used before. To do this is just very, very dangerous. It's going to cause an awful lot of problems.

It's not only that this is misleading. Sure, Republicans have used reconciliation far more than Democrats- in one accounting, in 14 of 19 times either a GOP President has signed the bill which went through this process or it was vetoed by a Democratic President. And yes, reconciliation has been used several times in the past to pass health care financing initiatives, including not only the aforementioned Childrens' Health Insurance Program but the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) of 1985 and others.

But it's really the utter illogic of GOP talking points. During the same exchange, Hatch contend "in every case except two they were--they, they had bipartisan votes."

And across the dial (old term- back when televisions had dials) on CBS' Face The Nation, Lindsay Graham was claiming "We’ve had reconciliation votes, but all of them had received bipartisan support. The least was 12 when we did reconciliation with tax cuts."

But as Think Progress points out, President Bush the Younger signed three budget bills which were passed by a Republican-controlled Congress with only two or three votes from the minority. (Those would be the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005, Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003.)

The idea, however, that the majority party should not employ reconciliation when it is legislation not supported by a substantial portion of the legislative minority defies common sense. After all, if a lot of Republicans supported the bill there would be no need for the reconciliation process. But more importantly: this argument allows the GOP to stand en masse against legislation- even when substantive parts reflect Republican complaints- and then claim "look, they're trying to do it alone! They're so mean!"

The health care bill now proposed by Democrats contains GOP amendments, GOP proposals, and hands to the private insurance industry 30+ million customers without a public option or any competition- and the Republicans cry: "Look what those radical liberals are imposing on us!"

Angling for partisan political advantage, the GOP is engaging in political theatre, gambling that its base will drive the November elections.

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