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Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

Posts Tagged ‘reconciliation’

Health Reform Chronicles: Reconciliation Is “Nuclear Option” When Democrats Do It

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Scare Tactics Unlimited: From “Death Panels” to “Nuclear Option”

On the eve of the health care reform summit convened today by President Obama, Republican senators, echoed by their chorus of Beck, Limbaugh, Drudge, et al., are smearing as a “nuclear option” the Senate Democrats’ potential strategy of passing health reform via budget reconciliation, a not uncommon procedure. Senators Kyl, Cornyn, and Hatch are lying, and they know it. Republicans are trying to alarm the public and intimidate the Democrats from using reconciliation because they know the Dems are going to push reform through with or without them. Reporters, news organizations should not let them get away with this mendacious blurring of two distinct phenomena.

As explained in a comment to a reader yesterday, the “nuclear option” denounced by Senators Biden and Obama in 2005 was not voting by budget reconciliation, but a Republican threat to totally obliterate the filibuster. Budget reconciliation, a perfectly rule-abiding process for passing legislation that reduces the deficit (that’s its original intent, since 1974), has been used 22 times since 1980, sixteen of which were led by Republicans, as with the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. Reconciliation has also been used by Democrats to pass health reform legislation such as COBRA and S-CHIP. Reconciliation is explained further in this previous post, written at a less optimistic stage of the long process.


Senate Dems, Stop: Go to Reconciliation (51 Votes)

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

“Not Health, Not Care, Not Reform”

Ed. Note: The writer of this post volunteered for about a half-dozen Organizing for America phone banks to ask voters to call their senators to press for a public option.

The Senate Democrats’ over-compromised health reform legislation should be killed, and efforts should turn now to a reconciliation process by which only 51 votes would be needed. Take the best elements still remaining—the health insurance exchange idea, and funding for prevention and wellness and for community health care centers—and add in universal access to Medicare, and put it up for a vote through reconciliation. You can keep your present policy if you like it, but you’d have the option of going with Medicare whether you’re 22 or 64. (We concede that 51 votes may not be attainable, but chances are good, especially if, for a change, the president will seriously push for it.)

Dr DeanThe reconciliation route is a strategy that the good doctor and health reform leader Gov. Howard Dean has been recommending for months and is pressing for now with renewed vigor—and freaking out the Obama White House and Senate Democratic leadership. (Dean is not saying give up: see his op-ed in the Washington Post here.) The reconciliation process may sound arcane, but as a rule-abiding way of bypassing Senate filibusters it has been used almost 30 times since 1980, including for budget- and health-care related legislation such as COBRA for health-care insurance portability, expanded eligibility for Medicaid, and the state Children’s Health Insurance Program (better known as S-CHIP). It was also used by congressional Republicans to pass the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts that mainly benefited the upper-income tax brackets. It is time to use it again . . . for the public good.