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. harold

    Kinda strange situation .."them Republicans"....are crying like crazy because they think thSDemocrats might lose the election in November because they might use "reconciliation process" and of course pass Health Insurance for 30 Million Americans... Why the sadness on the part of the republicans?..If they think the Democrats might llose the election in Novermber then why are they not partying in the streets and laughing and carrying on like crazy?..... You would think they... the republicans would be estatic or something not sad and down and out...huh? Instead they are warning the Democrats not to pass Health Care cause they might lose the elections...What gives Republicans you all mixed up or confused or something? Start laughing and partying right now how about it?

    February 28, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  2. How To Bankrupt America- Put Democrats On IT

    MAKE MY DAY MORON DEMS-do reconciliation,you do not have the balls to go against the GOP and you morons know it.You are stupid,but not that stupid.

    February 28, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  3. Di

    The repubs have whined about the 2,700 page bill for almost a year now...that's just 7 or 8 pages a night for your bedside reading...stop crying and get to work...we hire aids for you too, have them read it too you while you are watching how dumb you look on that there TV.

    February 28, 2010 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  4. Costello Williams

    Get this done and over with

    February 28, 2010 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  5. Jack Lowe

    It would be a real mistake for the GOP to think Obamacare is as opposed as much as they would like to believe. Somebody voted for him and his vision. Small wonder. When's the last time they were right on anything?

    February 28, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  6. harold

    Added thought... Nothing new that Republicans oppose Health care.. for the USA people.. they opposed Medicare in 1965 calling Medicare Socialism... I say strip the republicans in Congrerss of their Health Insurance and tell them we will "start over"... to get it right for them.. and just hold on a year or so we will get them republicans in Congress Health Insurance. .....So strip them of Insurance ... and see how they act... then.....huh?

    February 28, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  7. Jim

    Pres. Obama's efforts to obtain bipartisan Republican support for health care reform – are like Pres. Lincoln's efforts to reason with seceding Southern states and solve the problem of slavery.

    This nation cannot endure as a house divided – between those with heath insurance and those without. This nation cannot endure with a broken health care system that will consume 20% of our GDP.

    It is time for Pres. Obama and Democrats to fix this great remaining problem of our democracy and economy.

    February 28, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  8. John in WV

    If you believe tax cuts to the rich is a lesser issue to repubs than health care as McConnell says, you ain't with it. Repubs used reconciliation twice to fatten the pockets of their rich buddies with tax breaks and nothing is more important to them than that. If repubs think that health reform is a greater issue, it's because they think passage might cause them mid-term set backs. Party up in the front seat, people somewhere back in the trunk.

    February 28, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  9. Candi

    Pelosi you are a bigger MORON than your "O GREAT ONE" OBAMIE .Try reconciliation and perish.You and the dems are a disgrace to America,.you socialist morons.

    February 28, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  10. A keen observer

    Democrats, go for it!

    The Refuseniks will never agree to meaningful healthcare reform because they have been bought and paid for by the insurance companies.

    February 28, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  11. harold

    Can you say the USA is a democracy?. When they require 60 votes out of 100 in the Senate to pass Health Insurance ...? What is this.. a Democracy it is NOT... 51 out of 100 votes is a Democracy.... Am I right or not?

    February 28, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  12. Jake

    Pelosi is 3rd in line for the presidency.Obama/Biden/Pelosi. Looks like DUMB/DUMBER/DUMBEST.Who elected these imbeciles?A real disgrace to America.

    February 28, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  13. Dawn Ada, Oh

    As far as I am concerned if they don't have a public option or something very close to a public option included in the bill, they can save the money and scrap the bill, because it is useless to millions of us who are struggling. I went from having 100% insurance with no deductible 15 years ago to 80%/20% with a $4000 deductible for each member of my family and a health savings account that is empty. I imagine within 15 more years I will have nothing and everyone that whined and cried about not wanting to "pay" for lazy people's insurance(which is a fallacy because they are already on medicaid) will be screaming the loudest for health reform and some how it will all be President Obama's fault.

    February 28, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  14. Robert

    All this nonsense from Republicans about something of 'this magniture' should not be passed by reconciliation.

    This thing should pass by an up and down vote... A simple majority of 51 votes. That is how it is supposed to be. But because the Republicans are abusing the filibuster, it would take 60 votes. And the Republicans are using the filibuster for EVERYTHING for the first time in US history.

    Fine. The filibuster is allowed by the rules. But so is reconciliation. And if the Dems have to use it to give this legislation a simple majority vote, which it is supposed to have... then more power to them.

    It's high time they began playing hardball with Republicans, who have always played dirty.

    They claim Reconciliation should not be used for something of this magnitude.. yet they passed Bush's Medicare prescription bill by this method and it also added a trillion dollars to the deficit. They also used it for Bush's tax cuts to the millionairs..

    Hypocrisy is now biting them in the butt...

    February 28, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  15. Uma

    99 % of the senators and congressmen just don't understand how critical it is have affordable health insurance in this country for every citizen irrespective of their condition. It's because they have the best health insurance irrespective of their condition and paid for by the tax payers. They don't pay into social security and their retirement and their pensions are not dependent on what happens in wall street, because they have voted long time back to get the same salary they got in office until the day they die. If each of them have to shop for their own insurance, contribute to SS, have no pension benefits, then they will have some idea as to how the average American is suffering. They should have no pension benefits after retirement just like any business organization. Last year the top 5 insurance companies made a combined profit of $12 Billion $. Insurance is for the healthy and wealthy. This kind of capitalism is the new form of imperialism where the average anerican's condition is worsening everyday. We need to have a single payer system. Healthcare is a basic need and we need govt. regulations and involvement.

    February 28, 2010 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  16. Katie in NC

    Democrats want to be given everything needed in life by the "government".A party of total entitlements.A party of total government control.Maybe the Dems should just move to Cuba,I am sure Castro would welcome them,and America could go on as previous.Long live capitalism,the true reward of results.

    February 28, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  17. Frank

    The public option ought to be included in the bill up for the vote. Also, why not end the double-standard? I recommend that any Congress person – both Democrat and Republican – voting against the public option immediately drop their federal, government-run health care plan they and their families currently enjoy.

    February 28, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  18. Adam from Ohio

    Health reform legislation passed the Senate already with 60 votes. The reconciliation effort applies only to a small group of changes to the bill that already passed. Of course, Republicans are being totally disingenuous when they ignore this fact.

    February 28, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  19. Alan

    Can the Dems just not hear the American public? Is this not the same exact thing they accused Bush of doing? Ignoring what the American people are saying.

    February 28, 2010 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  20. joel palmer

    Time for the dems to get tough and ram this through; the people want it and we despeartely need it.

    A pox on the gop and their tactic of obstruction; screw em

    February 28, 2010 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  21. usualone

    Still want to know where the naysayers think the majority of the Americans are against health care reform. To date no one has polled my associates and me locally for anything. Polling should be a good cross section of Americans but I do wonder how all the polls tend to be conveniently against the President in hot issues. Tired of the Republicans thinking they are in the majority. Maybe if they say it enough it may happen - in their minds?

    February 28, 2010 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  22. JonDie

    We absolutely need a) a public option and b) government power to block the outrageous increases the insurance companies are seeking to impose on us along with an end to allowing insurance companies to not cover "pre-existing conditions." Anything less is a sell-out to the corporations.

    February 28, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  23. Paul

    Most Americans are against this bill for ONE SIMPLE REASON.
    There's no money to pay for it.
    Most Americans didn't mortgage their childrens future with MOUNTAINS OF DEBT!
    And they can't believe the Democrats are so Stupid as to pile all this debt on the country too.

    SO, Dear Democrats:
    Go ahead and make our day and pass this C**P!
    We'll take care of you in November.

    February 28, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  24. SY

    So, the majority of people don't want this health care bill? Baloney! One of my relatives was dead set against it too until his insurance, which he receives through his employer, a huge insurance company, increased premiums astronomically, increased prescription medication costs, and cut services. Now he's saying he would definitely vote for reform. He has pre-existing conditions so finding insurance elsewhere is not possible. And he's employed and his insurance is through his employer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He wants reform now. Why is competition good for driving prices down until the privates are forced to compete with the government! Government does things right, that's why!

    February 28, 2010 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  25. joel palmer

    An up or down vote with a 51 majority winning; what could possibly be fairer?

    The gop will be whining about this for the next four elections; all of whicjh they will lose

    February 28, 2010 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
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