February 25th, 2010
04:00 PM ET
13 years ago

CNN Fact Check: How common is Senate use of reconciliation?

(CNN) - Reconciliation sure sounds like a nice word, but it is getting a lot of negative attention around Washington. Senators from both sides of the
aisle have criticized the idea of using budget reconciliation to overhaul health care.

In the health care summit Thursday, Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, called upon President Barack Obama to renounce the very idea, calling reconciliation "a partisan vote through a little-used process." But this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said legislation has passed under budget-reconciliation rules 21 times since 1981, and critics should "stop crying about reconciliation as if it's never been done before."

As the health care debate evolves into strategy sessions to overcome the threat of filibuster, the CNN Fact Check Desk wondered: How common is reconciliation?

Fact Check: Has reconciliation been used 21 times since 1981? - Reconciliation was established by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. A reconciliation bill is one that reconciles law with budget resolutions passed by Congress. Reconciliation was established, in part, to lower the bar for passing tough deficit-reducing legislation.

- Debate on reconciliation measures in the Senate is limited to 20 hours. While this sounds like a lot of time to debate, normally the Senate can debate indefinitely unless cloture is invoked. Since cloture requires a three-fifths vote - 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate - the 41 Republicans in the Senate can hold up a bill like health care by continuing debate indefinitely. By skipping the cloture process, reconciliation would allow Democrats to pass a health care bill in the Senate over the unanimous opposition of Republicans.

- Likewise, the House Rules Committee typically will limit the debate on a reconciliation measure.

- According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, 22 bills have been sent to presidents through the use of reconciliation from 1981 to 2008. Three of those bills were vetoed by President Bill Clinton. The report's author, Robert Keith, told CNN that reconciliation has not been used since 2008.

- Many of the 19 reconciliation measures that became law since 1981 involved substantive policy issues such as federal health care programs, tax exemptions and Social Security.

Bottom Line: Reid got the number slightly wrong. According to the CRS, reconciliation has been used 22 times since 1981. Additionally, reconciliation has been used frequently in the past to change important federal policies.

–CNN's Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

Filed under: Health care
soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Limbaugh is a liberal

    OMG, now Reid is a liar because he underestimated the number of reconciliations by a single one! He has lost all credibility! lol

    February 25, 2010 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  2. largo, FL

    And there you have. Harry Reid needs to get some back bone and JUST DO IT. (Reconciliation) Republican are going to cry anyway.

    February 25, 2010 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  3. Jim In Miami

    Gingrich and the 1994 Republicans used 'reconcilation' to pass their "Contract with America"

    February 25, 2010 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  4. beth

    It should also be noted that 16 of the 21 times was by the G.O.P.

    February 25, 2010 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  5. Kelly

    Yes, and HOW MANY of those 21 times were by Republicans? At least 14 ... the author fails to mention that fact.

    February 25, 2010 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  6. dave esser

    Wow! Could you have written an article more devoid of solid content? No, but that's OK since you are just trying to provide cover for the party that called Repub attempts to use the reconciliation process, "Arrogance of power," when they held the majority in both houses. We kicked their sorry butts out for it and we'll do the same to Dems who think we don't notice their hypocrisy. Take back your country AMERICA! The ruling class of today must be unequivocally rejected n November. Kick incumbents to the curb. Now smile didn't that feel good? Let them rot in the obscurity they deserve. From : a minority (not that I care), schoolteacher, tea-party lover.

    February 25, 2010 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  7. Rabid Republican

    Since Harry Reid got the number slightly wrong, it's all a big lie and a conspiracy. The 22 times no longer counts so we can now say reconciliation has never been used before. Sheesh, it's so simple once you put on your tin foil hat.

    February 25, 2010 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  8. Joyce in South Carolina

    We desperately need to have a health care bill in America. If reconciliation is the only way, then get it done. Bottom line, 51 out of 100 is still a majority. Most elementary school children will confirm this fact.

    We have had enough discussion!!!!!!

    February 25, 2010 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  9. S Callahan

    Since 1974? Wow, that just speaks volumes of the 'true' players in politics.....hmmm

    February 25, 2010 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  10. I Am Rush Limbaugh and I Say . . .

    Why should a few facts get in the way of Republican LIES?

    February 25, 2010 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  11. Dan

    Give us the 22 cases, where are the facts you have promised?

    February 25, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  12. Ted

    What is the breakdown of the 22 times reconciliation has been used. What was the topic of each bill that was passed using reconciliation and how many times have the Democrats or Republicans used reconciliation? What were three bills vetoed by President Clinton?

    February 25, 2010 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  13. ww

    How about reporting that 16 of those were by republicans??? Wonder how many of those opposed to reconciliation know that!

    February 25, 2010 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  14. William T Hull

    I had heard that George Bush used reconciliation 5 times while in office. Is this correct? It would be interesting to detail the 22 times reconciliation was used since 1981.

    February 25, 2010 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  15. They call me "tater salad"

    And 16 of those 21 times was done by the GOP and suddenly their all whining about it now..........What a shocker..........NOT!!!

    February 25, 2010 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  16. voter

    what is the big deal about reconciliation? The news did not conduct polls or explain the process of reconciliation when the thugs passed the bush tax cuts which did not benefit the middle class. Stop the nonsense and report the real news of how taxpayers are paying for the uninsure when they go to the ER. It be cheaper to provide universal healthcare.

    February 25, 2010 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  17. Richard

    Really this is a smear job. Reid got it wrong? That's how you describe this. Oh yeah add in three of those reconciliatons were vetoed by Clinton. CNN has become a clown news network.

    February 25, 2010 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  18. Cem Gokcen

    After watching the health care debates I am convinced that these people are harmful to your health.

    February 25, 2010 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  19. Rita Z

    You forgot to mention that, 75 percent of the time, it was used by the Republicans.

    February 25, 2010 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  20. Old Farmboy

    In other words Reid lied.. uhh, I mean exagerated.

    February 25, 2010 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  21. Lolita Peralta

    ...and, this explanation did not state how many times the Republicans and the Democrats used reconciliation. And for which bills that were passed or not.

    February 25, 2010 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  22. bob

    Well there will be a lot of reconcilliation needed if this legislation is passed, to reconcile the new taxes and increased costs to the American people.
    They just don't want to listen,people want them working on jobs not health care legislation. The economy is in a shambles, deficits are out of control and they want to add to it.

    February 25, 2010 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  23. Derrick

    When they lost their seats in congress, they lost their ability to influence legislation. THAT is how the system works.

    February 25, 2010 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
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