Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Flashback 2005: Obama and Dems call reconciliation an arrogant power grab

On Monday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs made it clear that the President and the Democratic congress would use the senate rules maneuver called budget reconciliation to enact health care reform if necessary:
During the White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs described reconciliation as a not-uncommon maneuver, and he even walked the press corps through a little legislative history of times when the Senate used reconciliation rules to pass a priority of President George W. Bush.

“Reconciliation, as you know, is a legislative vehicle that has been used on a number of occasions over the past many years,” Gibbs said. “In 2001, the $1.35 trillion tax cut that went through the Senate went through the very same way. The tax cuts in 2003, $350 billion, went through in a similar way.

“I don't think the president wants to get ahead of Thursday's meeting," Gibbs said. "I think we believe there can and should be a constructive discussion. I do think the president believes there ought to be an up-or-down vote on health care.”
In 2005, when the Republicans were in control of the White House and the Congress, then Senator Obama and other prominent Democrats were highly critical of the same tactic and referred to it as the "nuclear option."  The Drudge Report supplies this interesting historical montage to refresh our memories:

That was then.  This is now.

Democratic Senator and President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Robert Byrd, is one of the original authors of the reconciliation rule and strongly objects to its use to enact health care reform.  From Fox News:
As Robert Byrd, (D-W.V.), one of the original authors of the reconciliation rule, explained, “Reconciliation was intended to adjust revenue and spending levels in order to reduce was not designed to…restructure the entire health care system.” He warns that using reconciliation for health care would “violate the intent and spirit of the budget process, and do serious injury to the Constitutional role of the Senate.” In fact, in 1985, the Senate adopted the “Byrd rule,” which prohibits the use of reconciliation for any “extraneous issue” that does not directly change revenues or expenditures. Clearly, large portions of the health care bill, ranging from mandates to insurance regulation to establishing “exchanges,” do not meet that requirement.

With Republicans threatening to challenge any provision that violates the Byrd Rule, Democrats have been contemplating a variety of ways around it, including having Vice President Joe Biden, in his role as president of the Senate, overrule the nonpartisan Senate parliamentarian. But no vice president has overruled a parliamentarian since Nelson Rockefeller in 1976, and doing so now, in defense of a bill opposed by 58 percent of voters, risks a significant backlash.

House Minority Whip, Eric Cantor said today that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn't have the votes to pass a major health care bill because the American people do not want it.

Time will tell.

1 comment:

  1. Too bad we don't have Senator John Stennis anymore to advise on parliamentary matters.