According to an article in The Financial Times, reconciliation has been used more than twenty times since 1980 to thwart opposition filibusters. Surprisingly the majority of those times, the reconciliation process was initiated by Republican Congresses and in several instances it was to push through healthcare policy. Why are Republicans in an uproar now, even going so far as to call the “reconciliation” process archaic and to question whether the process should be used at all?
Examples of Republican sponsored “reconciliation” bills in the Senate
1985 – The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). This act allowed workers leaving their jobs in a company that offered health insurance to stay in the scheme for a set period of time providing they paid the premiums (Republican).
1987 – Nursing Home Reform Act (Republican).
1996 – Large changes to the social safety net including separating Medicaid health insurance scheme for the poor from welfare (Republican).
1997 – Initiated Medicare + Choice which is now referred to as Medicare Advantage (Republican).
2001 – Biggest tax cuts in twenty years, adding an estimated $1,350 billion to the deficit over a decade (Republican).
2003 – Additional tax cuts through the Jobs Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act, adding another $1,000 billion to the deficit over ten years (Democrat).
2005 – Deficit Reduction Act which included $26 billion in cuts to Medicaid over a decade, but allowed parents of disabled children to buy into the government- backed healthcare scheme for the poor.
What Does Congress Reconciliation Mean?
Originally “reconciliation” referred to the budget reconciliation process. This was the process that congress used to expedite merging the first budget resolution the congress passed at the beginning of each year with the second budget resolution passed near the end. “Reconciliation” has drifted quite a bit, with both sides, agreeing that “reconciliation” used today is nothing more than a way to pass legislation with a fifty vote senate majority. “Reconciliation” limits senate debate to no more than twenty hours, bypassing the filibuster.
Are the Republicans Right to be angry about “Reconciliation” Being Used to Pass Health Care Reform?
As a Liberal Progressive, who is pro health care reform, I will admit to bias on this issue. The Republicans though do have a right to fight the passage of sweeping health care reform, or any other legislation that they don’t agree with. It is one of the great things about our country. Do I agree with their tactics? That is another question. Conservatives seem to have a knack for twisting the past to suit their own purposes. Do Republicans really think of the “reconciliation” process as an unfair practice used to strong arm congress into passing partisan legislation. My belief is that it is not the “reconciliation” process that the Republicans object to, but the potential for the legislation they object to passing that fuels their fire.
With political analysts theorizing that the Obama Administration will try to get the health care overhaul bill passed before Easter, March 2010 should be an interesting month for political junkies on both sides of the great healthcare divide.