Reconciliation is a parliamentary procedure established in 1974 as a means of creating federal policies that are related to meeting Congress’ fiscal objectives. The process limits debate to 20 hours and does not allow for bills to be blocked by filibuster. In other words, only a simple majority is needed to pass the bill.
Although the interpretation and usage of reconciliation has changed over the years, one thing has remained the same. The party out of power always opposes its use; the party in power always uses it.
Republicans made three arguments against the use of budget reconciliation for the health care legislation.
First, they claimed that budget reconciliation goes against the founders’ intent. Curiously, Republicans weren’t making that argument when they were in power. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), who opposed its use to pass the Democrats’ health care bill, actually supported its use in 2005 to pass President Bush’s tax cuts.
In fact, Republicans have historically used reconciliation more than Democrats. Since its inception, budget reconciliation has been used 23 times. Republican presidents have signed 17 of these bills.
Second, Republicans argued that reconciliation should be used solely for budgetary purposes and not health care reform. Once again, they seem to be suffering from selective memory. In 1986, President Reagan signed the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986 into law. The bill, which was supported by Republicans, contained health care provisions.
Finally, Republicans contend that reconciliation should not be used to pass a bill that raises deficits like the Democrats’ health care reform bill. Unfortunately, this argument is not only hypocritical, but also incredibly misleading.
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the Democrat’s health care reform bill will actually decrease the deficit by $132 billion over the first decade and $1 trillion or more over the next. Republicans actually used reconciliation to pass Bush’s tax cuts, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates increased budget deficits by $60 billion in 2003 and by $340 billion in 2008.
Thomas Prieto is a senior majoring in political science. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.