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. Eilene

    "Jammed down the throats of a public" as in what Bush did with the Iraqi WMDs and the resulting debacle war there???

    February 28, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  2. Chad from Tampa

    The Dems keep digging their own grave.

    February 28, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  3. Change? NO Exclusion and Alienation? Yes

    I am a lifelong Massachusetts Democrat who has voted Democratic his whole life since 1960 on the state and federal level until this year when I voted for Scott Brown.

    I will not vote for any Democrat who pushes Obamacare through with the use of Reconciliation.

    February 28, 2010 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  4. Bryon Morrigan

    If they finally do this...then it will be the first sign of life in the Democratic Congress. If the Republicans had had the kind of power that the Democrats have held in government for the past year...we'd be living in a Theofascist police state, and at war with every country on the planet. (Yes, yes...hyperbole...but you get the point...)

    February 28, 2010 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  5. Mike.

    America needs health insurance reform and universal coverage NOW. We know the Republicans wont do it because they represent the moneyed interests, greed and conservatism. It's time for the Democratic party to stand up and do what's necessary.

    February 28, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  6. JLM

    Get it done without the Republicans, because the GOP is the Insurance Companies, and only want the status quo, and that is to rob the American people blind.

    February 28, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  7. Viet.

    I know, we should start all over and in the mean time, It does't matter too much that millions of americans will die due to lack of insurance or the ones that have it , will soon lose it or not be able to afford it. Shucks, almost forgot about the 40 million Americans without insurance. Shame on me for not wanting to take care of the have nots. So what if we rank 37th in the world in health care for our citizens, I have my salary.perks and any form of insurance for 20% out of pocket monthly insurance premium cost and don't even think about the fact the goverment/taxpayers pay the other 80% of monthly cost., just one of my perks. Same old Republicans off camera talking points and beliefs. Wakeup America, they care not about the people who sent them there, just destroy the President and if the American people suffer, oh well, just some collateral damage..

    February 28, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  8. RTB

    The Republicans do not have much interest in the American Public, unless you are wealthy or a Corporation. They are going to try to mislead, deceive, dupe, stall, lie or whatever they can to screw up this health care reform.

    I trust the good people of this country will remember these shameful tactics by these awful lawmakers come election time.

    Fill up Congress with real Democrats for a truly Progressive society.

    February 28, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  9. Conservative equals illiterate ignorance

    It is about time the Democrats realize the Repugnants will do nothing and just go ahead and do it anyway, a majority is a majority, what democracy is based upon so go home whining Repugnants you deserve even worse for how badly you treat the American people.

    February 28, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  10. Ron

    Yes, please try to push through reconciliation. That type of decision against the majority of the American people will guarantee that Republicans will have majority power for generations. So PLEASE try to push reconciliation. PLEASE!!

    February 28, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  11. NC

    To South Carolina Senators and those in Congress. You need to help people in your state. Chester S. C., has a 23% unemployment rate. The town of Chester has a population of 32,000 and 8,000 people have no health insurance, 25% of the population. This info is from today's The Charlotte Observer, Section D Moneywise. They attend a free clinic The Good Samaritan Medical Clinic. The clinic also treats patients from York, Lancaster, Union and Fairfield counties. Senators Graham, DeMint and others in Congress from S. C., need to be asked why they are not doing anything for their citizens.

    February 28, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  12. Pelosi needs to join her white mice

    Nancy Pelosi – the poster child for bad behavior, partisan politics, and arrogant pork spending.

    Here resume

    Cost to save the San Francisco salt water white marsh mouse – $30 million

    Cost to fly on private military jets home on weekends $2 million

    Cost booze and snacks on her flights home each week $100,000

    Cost of a no bid contract to move a wine country promotional train to San Francisco. $50 million

    jJnket costs to visit Copenhagen during the global warming summit – $2 million

    Able to label a health care government takeover as non partisan when not a single Republican votes for it - PRICELESS

    February 28, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  13. DC

    How long should we have to work to pay for "more" government help? Currently we all work from Jan.1st through April13th to pay our taxes (3.5 months), We work longer to pay our taxes than we do for our food, mortgage, etc.. (check the facts) So to all the democrats that think this is a good idea, how long should we have to work each year for the gov't? 4,5, 6 months??? I would think if Gov't reduces it's spending like everyone else has, they should be able to get by on the 3.5 months of our salaries they already get, don't you!

    February 28, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  14. Jim from Reno

    22 times reconcillation used...16 by the Repubs. The two BIG tax cuts in the W administration was ramed through under reconcillation....So, Dems....go for it! Not to do so gives victory to the Repubs and the people lose.

    February 28, 2010 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  15. Frank

    The public should be included in the bill for the vote. Any Congress person who votes against the health care for all should voluntarily and immediately drop their federal, government-run insurance plan they and their families currently enjoy.

    February 28, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  16. Doraine Gordon

    The favorite expressions we hear from the Republicans nowadays is "jam it through" or "ramming it down their throats." This reminds me of the Bush days when all they could say was "cut and run". Who comes up with these stupid little sayings? And they say them over and over again. I get sick and tired of hearing the same old tired phrases. In the first place nobody is ramming or cramming anything. Everyone knows the country needs and must have health care reform. We cannot go on this way. And we don't care by what means it is passed into law. Use reconciliation, up and down or even sideways but just get it done. Why don't the Republicans just admit they don't want to reform anything?

    February 28, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  17. Rob Stumpf

    What lives by reconciliation, will someday die by reconciliation. It will simply be reversed by majority votes at some point when Republicans are back in power. That is a day that will be much closer to happening- -because the Democrats are trying to force this through. They are digging their own graves, and for no reason.


    They had every chance to get the same thing eventually passed, one step at a time, only slower, over the course of Obama's four years. They probably could have even had the public option. But Barry and Nancy's egos are too large for that. The voters? ha. Who cares about the voters? It's their egos that matter above all else.

    February 28, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  18. Micah

    Everyone from Palin to Limbaugh to McConnell to Boehner is using the same "jam this down America's throat" garbage. I'm sick of it. This has been in the works for 20 years, and no one is jamming anything anywhere (although I can think of a few things to be jammed UP a few Republicans.) We tried to work with you, and you kicked sand in our faces. We tried to make concessions and you said OK, but "NO WAY!" You know full well that this is a good idea for the US, and you are trying to score political points, not do what the people want and need. We've heard your comments about the unemployed and the poor. You want them to die. Well guess what? They vote too, and when this bill passes, we and they will cheer.

    February 28, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  19. NK1234

    I can't wait til 2011

    February 28, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  20. cspurgeon1@cfl.rr.com

    cmon Dems..unite and pushthis thru and then get on to the real work.It won't matter if you don't come together and shut the thugs up who are only in it for political gain. Do something good for the country and do it now.

    February 28, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  21. Mac Sidewinder

    If you do it this time, where do you stop? You might as well invoke it for anything you want.

    And if you are going to invoke it you might as well go whole hog and get everything you want into it in the first place.


    February 28, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  22. Sue

    Is it just me.........or is anyone else noticing that Pelosi even looks/sounds nuts??

    I swear that the effects of the botox injections are now going to her brain.

    She is expecting many Democratic politicians to commit political suicide in 2010 and 2012--by following her, Obama, Reid and the rest of the loony left, liberal Democrats off of the cliff.

    The 2010 elections cannot get here fast enough!!!

    February 28, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  23. Alex

    Republicans are such hypocrites! They whine and whine about how it's sooo terrible to raise taxes during an economic crisis. But insurance companies raising premiums 20-50% is totally fine? I'd much rather pay 20% more in taxes and have health care security then spend the rest of my life being terrorized by this health care system that kills 45,000 Americans every year, for now – probably more in the coming years if this bill doesn't get passed.

    And so hypocritical that they are more than happy to collect taxes for their own privileged salaries and health care, but they don't think that American citizens have a right to the same resources.

    Health insurance companies are a Republican-supported form of DOMESTIC TERRORISM! They all have blood on their hands!

    Pass the bill before more Americans die so that health insurance companies can again post record profits!

    February 28, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  24. Annie, Atlanta

    Something has to be done, and personally I don't care how. Just do it. We've run out of choices. The health insurance industry has decided it's time to gouge us. When rates go up between 20-75% (in 11 states in the last 2 weeks) while these companies are still making billions in profits per quarter and monopolize the business, it's time for government intervention. And while they're at it, they need to reregulate Wall Street and stop letting AIG, who is still in hock to us in the tens of billions, pay out bonuses for their failures. Are most of our representatives on the take? What's going on here? Good grief, we're being crushed by unrelenting unregulated greed.

    February 28, 2010 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  25. PULEEEZZZ!! lets tell some truth

    When the repubes used reconciliation, that was okay. Now when reconciliation is actually GOING TO HELP PEOPLE, oh noooo oh nooo. The repubes are wealthy white guys who can't dance. Dump them all!! Lets do something truly 'patriotic' and help people get health insurance they can afford..It works in Europe.. It can work here.

    February 28, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
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