February 28th, 2010
03:03 PM ET
13 years ago

Lawmakers brace for reconciliation showdown

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/28/art.2shotpelosi0228.cnn.jpg caption="In an interview that aired Sunday on CNN, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Republicans will have left their imprint on the final health care reform bill even though there likely won't be any GOP votes in support of it."]
Washington (CNN) - With last week's health care summit showing no sign of getting either side to budge, lawmakers Sunday staked out positions in the battle many believe is imminent: a presidential effort to push legislation through without Republican support.

On the political talk shows, Democratic and GOP leaders fought over budget reconciliation, the parliamentary procedure that could allow a vote in the Senate and circumvent a GOP filibuster.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, told CNN's "State of the Union" that he and other lawmakers "do not think something of this magnitude ought to be jammed down the throats of a public that doesn't want it through this kind of device."

Related video: McConnell on reconciliation

And Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, told ABC's "This Week" that "It would be a political kamikaze mission for the Democratic Party if they jam this through."

But Democrats cast it as a chance to enact critical reforms. "We'd really like to get a bipartisan bill," Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, told "FOX News Sunday." "In the absence of that," he added, the maneuver could help the country "move forward on health care reform."

The controversial tactic allows a measure to pass on a simple majority vote of 51, rather than the 60 needed to break a filibuster.

Facing staunch Republican opposition, and having lost a 60-vote super-majority in the Senate with the election of Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, President Obama has been considering turning to budget reconciliation.

"He's going to have more to say later this week how he thinks is the best way to move forward," Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

If the reconciliation tactic is used, it technically would not be on the full package of reforms.

"Reconciliation cannot be used to pass comprehensive health care reform," Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, chairman of the Budget Committee, told CBS' "Face the Nation." He added, "It won't work because it was never designed for that kind of significant legislation."

But under the scenario Democrats are considering, the procedure could prove to be the key to enacting the full package of reforms.

To get to the president's desk, a bill must first win passage in the House and Senate. Last year, the two chambers voted - and passed - different versions of the bill. They differ on key points.

Democratic sources have told CNN the general plan is for the House to now pass the version that the Senate passed last year with 60 votes. Meanwhile, negotiators in both chambers would agree to a separate package of changes to that legislation. That package would go before the Senate under reconciliation rules.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not describe how a reconciliation scenario might play out. But she said, "When we have a bill, which we will in a matter of days, then that is the bill that we can sell."

Pelosi also sought to remove some of the stigma that might accompany legislation passed entirely by one party with no bipartisan support.

"The bill can be bipartisan even though the votes might not be bipartisan, because they [Republicans] have made their imprint on this," she told CNN's "State of the Union."

Pelosi noted that the final bill likely would not include a government-run public health insurance option, a provision vigorously opposed by congressional Republicans but supported by liberal Democrats.

"We went into the legislative process - hundreds of hours of hearings and bill writing and all the rest - where the Republicans made their suggestions," Pelosi told CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. "We know that one of the reasons we didn't have a bill in the fall is because the president wanted to give the Senate more time to arrive at bipartisanship in the Senate bill, which he thought might be possible then."

She added, "And so what we've had is the year of trying to strive for bipartisanship - as I say, over 100 Republican amendments in the bill."

DeParle, the White House point person on health care reform, expressed confidence. "I believe that we will have the votes to pass this in Congress," she told NBC. "I believe that the president will keep fighting and that the American people want to have this kind of health reform."

Budget reconciliation was established in 1974 to make it easier for the Senate to pass bills that would lower the nation's deficit. Since then, it has been used to vote on various other issues. In total, the procedure has been used 22 times, and every president since Jimmy Carter has signed into law bills achieved through reconciliation.

Reconciliation language involving health care was included in the 2010 budget - to some controversy at the time - so the procedure could be invoked in this case.

The White House has noted, accurately, that every Republican senator who took part in last week's health care summit has voted for a reconciled bill in the past.

But Republicans say that doesn't justify its use for such sweeping legislation.

"Just because it has been used before for lesser issues doesn't mean it's appropriate for this issue," McConnell, R-Kentucky, told CNN.

And Alexander - who likely had the most fiery language of the day with the "kamikaze" quote - said that if the bill passes through reconciliation, a new set of headaches begin for Democrats. "Then for the rest of the year," he told ABC, "we're going to be involved in a campaign to repeal it."

Filed under: Congress • Extra • Health care • Popular Posts • Senate • State of the Union
soundoff (210 Responses)
  1. Albo58

    Theft and stupidity run rampant with these Dimwits! They continually ignore the American majority and for that, they will pay big time in November!

    February 28, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  2. Claude Robotham

    The GOP used reconciliation to pass George W. Bush's tax cut package, which benefited only a chosen few and gave birth to a new era of deficit spending. Yet when reconciliation might be employed to provide health care to tens of millions of Americans, McConnell and Alexander say that would be an abuse of power. The GOP persistently ignores the country's long term interest and focuses only on the next election. Its shortsightedness caused the financial crisis. Yet nearly every member of the GOP caucus opposed the stimulus bill and and now opposes health care reform, again for political gain. The GOP is nothing but a cult of the greedy and selfish.

    February 28, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  3. Turnabout is Fair Play

    Do what you have to do with Reconciliation Dems, the Repukes have done it 16 out of the 22 times it has been used; now it's our turn to help the public with healthcare, even the ignorant and easily led on the right whether they know it or not. It's been tried by multiple presidents unsuccessfully for over 5 decades, it's time to break the stranglehold the insurances companies have had for so long. Do it now and you will see a second term for Prez Obama, I guarantee it.

    February 28, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  4. Carmelle

    The bill passed the House with 219 votes
    The bill passed the Senate with 60 votes

    Now the house needs to have 218 votes to pass the Senate version of the bill, before moving to reconciliation.

    Reconciliation is NOT...NOT....NOT being used for the whole bill, just changes that will qualify for the Byrd rule (affects the budget). This is constitutional, so Repubs: STOP CRYING!!!

    February 28, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  5. Jilli

    The issue of reconcilliation isn't being presented properly. The house and senate have both passed bills. Reconcilliation will be used to pass ammendments to the hcr bill – not to pass the bill entirely. Why is the msm not being clear? Why are they blatantly misleading and parroting the republicans talking points? It seems disingenuous to do that to the American people.

    February 28, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  6. gpc

    No one in government is actually interested in what is good for the country–the Administration needs this bill passed for its credibility; the opposition blocks it in order to advance its political future. The answer is this: The American people want health care reform. We do not want, however, a bill that was hashed out behind closed doors, with undisclosed bribes, deals and strong arm tactics. We do want a bill that is understandable, and transparent. We are not prepared to accept a bill that has become nothing more than the subject of a political battle between two groups of incumbants who (hopefully will be ousted). So, all of you in Washington: do what you will–since you don't listen to those who put you there. The American people will have their say in November. If this American person has his way, you all will be out.

    February 28, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  7. Mike, formerly from Syracuse

    I hope the Dems do it. That will guarantee the house and Senate will shift in the Nov. elections and Obama's socialist agenda will be dead.

    February 28, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  8. Paul H

    Pelosi tells Lawmakers to pass this bill even if it means the end of their political career.
    If it means the end of a politicians job, then that politician didn't listen to their constitutes! Therefore they deserve to lose their jobs.
    We have a Representative of the people, asking others to vote yes on a bill no matter what.
    Is it any wonder as to why "We the People" feel there is a big disconnect between us, and Washington? I mean are people really paying attention to the things coming out of the mouths of these Representatives? Is this really a free nation anymore?
    I mean I feel like screaming "Hello, I'm right over here" "I can see, and hear everything your doing"
    Bottom line it's not about "We the People" anymore! It's all about more money in Washington, and over spending of future monies.

    February 28, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  9. stevegee

    If the Democrats attempt Reconcilliation for such an important issue, the American people won't stand for it.

    The Tea Parties were tame in comparison to the outcry that would result from such a brazen attempt by Pelosi and her liberal gang.

    February 28, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  10. mark

    Obama and the dems will be committing suicide if they opt for the reconciliation vote. THEY WILL PAY, but we all pay even more!

    February 28, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  11. Larry

    WHY, WHY, WHY. Why does this need to be done now and why do the denocrats still keep saying it will help the budget. It is a gross mistake,and the republicans have a plan to go one step at a time and have things passed and in effect in a few months. The democrat plan will not have rewards for a minimum of four years . . . and why is that . . . so they can collect money for four years and then lie about saving on the budget. LIES, LIES, LIES

    February 28, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  12. will

    I didn't hear a single republican complain or pay for the huge tax cut that "W" passed with the use of reconciliation and was not paid for. I didn't hear a single republican complain when "W" went to war that was not necessary and that was not paid for. The war with Iraq will cost over 1 trillion dollars and the republicans still say that this was a just war. We went to war over one word and one word only, "OIL." Would we have gone to war if Iraq was the leading exporter of broccoli, I think not.

    February 28, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  13. proud mother and sister of soldiers

    We had Pelosi say the voice of the people means nothing to her, we had Biden say at the summit that the public opinion means little, his opinion is what matters, how do we get through to these people that everyone wants reform but in a more logical manner. How difficult would that be? Pelosi is either a communist or a bad socialist! It doesn't matter to these people cause she is worth $20 mil. Why should she care about how the taxpayers will pay for this. This hasn't even been a topic of discussion. I will work my hardest to get rid of these dems!

    February 28, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  14. marty

    Is anyone really surprised at the Republican's silliness? It's a shame that some people actually believe the inflammatory and manipulative language robotically used by these "honorable" congressmen and senators. ' Political kamikaze';' jammed down the throat of the public', ad nauseum ,demonstrates that Republicans will continue to be the party of NO and delight in the misery and heartbreak of millions of Americans who are having a very, very difficult time. Contrary to the literal brainwashing of the Republican leaders and their dittoheads, the public definitely want a Healthcare bill and they can only hope and pray that their legislators have the wisdom and the compassion to make it happen.

    February 28, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  15. mike

    Ramming a flawed health care bill through would not be a step forward but a tremendous disaster for the working people and businesses of this country. If the Dems do this I hope every one of them is voted out when up for re-election.

    February 28, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  16. Chipster

    How do Republicans manage to get people to vote against their own best interest? They succeed at it far too frequently. Right now, the middle class are losing their jobs, their healthcare, and even their homes. But, they're still falling for the nonsense. Elected officials have the best health coverage in the world at our expense. Employers are cutting wages and health coverage because of the rising cost of health care and insurance premiums.

    But Republican elected officials are claiming that federal funds will be used for abortion (they won't) and that Medicare will be cut by 1/2 million dollars (it won't). The proposed health care plan will not change the abortion rule concerning federal funds.

    The Bush Administration BANNED Medicare from negotiating costs for medication.....they BANNED it! Did you know that? The Obama Administration wants to cut Medicare costs by 1/2 million dollars by ALLOWING Medicare to negotiate drug costs.

    If you're at all capable of complex thought, do you get that? Now, why would Republicans try to mislead you?

    Maybe you should think about THAT!

    February 28, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  17. rob

    Do i! Pass it already! Most Americans really do want this.

    February 28, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  18. Ethan

    The American people threw out the GOP in 2006 and 2008 because we wanted change from their obstructing lying ways. Now that we are going to get it the Republicans are going to have to explain why they opposed the change the American people want and need.

    February 28, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  19. Jim in Florida

    Lest we all forget, this country was founded on a tax revolt.

    The Democrats in power will illegally use reconciliation to jam through thsi health care charade then come November the elctorate will demonstrate how revolutions happen today in this country – at the ballot box.

    Say so long to the undue influence of the leftist wing of the Democrat Party.

    The moderates put these goons in office and they will remove them.

    February 28, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  20. p

    Time to get tough Mr. President.
    Please show these dweebs who's boss.
    I voted for you because somebody needs to kick some repub butt.
    You know, these nimrods with the extremely short memory...
    No more Mr. Nice guy.
    They are not nice people.
    They give you no other choice.
    Give'em hell.

    February 28, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  21. Malik

    there is nothing controversial about an up or down vote unless you don't believe in democracy.

    every one who participates in it has to stand for elections

    February 28, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  22. virginia nielsen

    All the republicans are rich people, coming from rich families, including all the republican presidents... they don't know how a middle class strggles to pay the bills every month !!! Health care right now is a privilege and it is supposed to be for everybody !!! An unhealthy nation can not produce well. Give us a health care that we, americans, can afford !!!

    February 28, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  23. Chipster

    Sen. McConnel,
    Are you actually claiming that welfare reform was a "lesser issue?"

    Republicans attempted to use reconciliation to open ANWR to oil drilling. That's a "lesser" issue?

    And since when is reconciliation a nuclear option? The nuclear option is a majority vote that blocks a filibuster. It's hard to keep up with all the Republican inconsistencies and misuse of information.

    February 28, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  24. OBAMA - The Greatest Partisan President

    Whether President Oblamo has one or two terms in the Oval Office, one thing is certain. He will go down as one of the most polarizing partisan presidents in this country's history.

    When the Speaker of the House has the gall to say that they can jam through a health care bill using a technical maneuver with no GOP support and it can still be non partisan, she must think that 60% of Americans are inconsequential and not entitle to equal representation

    What happened in Massachusetts with the election of Republican Scott Brown to fill the seat of Ted Kennedy, and to do so by winning in Kennedy's home town of HyannisPort, will be a blip compared to the ouster of the Democratic tax and spend madness.that has corrupted Washington DC

    February 28, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  25. ThinkAgain

    McConnell said that he and other lawmakers, "do not think something of this magnitude ought to be jammed down the throats of a public that doesn't want it through this kind of device."

    Yeah, right, Republicans had absolutely NO problem using reconciliation to jam irresponsible, unprecedented tax cuts for the wealthy during wartime down the throats of Americans under Bush. Those tax cuts benefited only the top 2% of Americans, and gave money to people who not only already had more than enough, but who used those extra funds to build factories overseas where labor is cheap and environmental regulations are non-existent. Meanwhile, thousands of Americans lost their jobs here at home.

    Those irresponsible tax cuts were directly responsible for the huge deficits we are now facing.

    The GOP is so FULL of hypocrites, it makes me sick!

    What a pathetic bunch of losers!

    GOP = Party Before Country

    February 28, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
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