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. The Lady

    Apparently the Republicans do not understand, we the people do want reconciliation pushed down our throats we are the ones that did not get polled, Rebpublicans have nothing on the table and all they keep saying is lets start over from scratch. If you do not want the present bill pushed down our throats come up with something better.


    February 28, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  2. Monster Zero

    I think anyone listening to what Democratic Sen. Byrd, the inventor of the reconciliation move, has said repeatedly, reconciliation is not for a majority to stick something up Americans arse that far less than 50% of the populous wants or even understands. Reconciliation was specifically designed for BUDGETARY ISSUES necessary to balancve the budget, it was not for dictating policy on which 16% of our economy is based. Pass it, see who pays the price for the failure but remember these failures take a little time to happen... Medicare, Social Security, (ponzi schemes), NAFTA, China trade, ETC., ETC., ETC... Liberals just don't seem capable of figuring out where all that free entitlement money comes from in the first place, but I think they soon will find out when they look in their own pocket!

    February 28, 2010 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  3. Don in Grand Rapids, Mi

    I juat read another news release in which Pelosi said, "Democrates are ready". I suspect that she means that they have already packed their bags cause they are going to be voted out in November!

    February 28, 2010 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  4. Truth Hurts

    It is amazing to me at how many people on here think that this bill is going to instantly give millions of people health care insurance.

    Don't you realize that the taxes in the bill will take effect immediatley but the "health care" won't be for four years.

    If this is so critical why not start the coverage now. Well because it is going to take 10 years of taxes to get six years of coverage.

    Yup – this is definately something that the "enlightened" Dems would support.

    Why didn't the Dems just pass this when they had the super majority?
    Because then they could not blame it on the GOP.

    February 28, 2010 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  5. Sid

    The democraps are finally showing us all what vile scum, anti Americans they are. They don't care at all about doing the job they were elected to do-screw the citizens and ram health care reform down their throats and then line their poockets with dollars. The only good news is that they've destroyred their own corrupt party. Not really good news but out they go in November and bye bye Nobama in 2012.

    February 28, 2010 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  6. GI Joe

    Grace – you go ahead and buy an HMO or PPO that means you can NEVER leave your city or county, otherwise you will be OUT OF INSURANCE.

    Most in-state policies dictate HMO and PPO ONLY.

    February 28, 2010 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  7. MJ

    First of all – My deepest sympathy to anyone who has to withstand even 5 minutes with Pelosi. What a complete moron! This is not the Health Care Reform we need! Why is Washington not listening to Americans? I don't have coverage. Too expensive. Preexisting condition – High Blood Pressure (under control). Do I want Government to manage my Health Care? Absolutely not! Just give us options to buy across State Lines, Eliminate Preexisting Conditions, and pay a fair price for services.

    February 28, 2010 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  8. Robyn

    Republicans are coming off looking like spoiled, stubborn and infintile thugs. Sure ain't the party Mom and Pop once supported. Shame.

    February 28, 2010 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  9. cony

    Down with Capitalism, communism, and monarchism. "The socialism I believe in isn't really politics. It is a way of living. It is humanity. I believe the only way to live and to be truly successful is by collective effort, with everyone working for each other, everyone helping each other, and everyone having a share of the rewards at the end of the day. That might be asking a lot, but it's the way I see football and the way I see life."

    Shankly's philosophy

    February 28, 2010 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  10. 101sonny

    Reconciliation ;Dems have had 6......Repubs have had 16....Repubs owe Dems 10 Now 1 for health care,1 S.B.A.,1 for the heck of it. Plow these Repubs and all the turncoat dems. out.Lets get this country moving again.....November he we come.....

    February 28, 2010 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  11. RandR

    Republicans have "gone to bed" with insurance companies....they're married to them now. Enough said.

    February 28, 2010 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  12. Democrats - the Party of NO

    Democrats want everything their way, and say NO to the wishes of the nation. The Democrats are the contemptuous Party of NO.

    February 28, 2010 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  13. worried american

    why do we keep saying "well george bush did this and george bush did that"?..democrats blames the previous administration and republicans blames the present...two wrongs dont make a right..i work hard to have the health insurance that i do have..is it perfect?.what is?..but i dont think i should work hard to pay for someone elses insurance

    February 28, 2010 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  14. Doug

    "The bill can be bipartisan even though the votes might not be bipartisan". Does this make sense to anyone else besides Nancy Pelosi? Repeat after me, "Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, November." Then continue right on down this road. The bridge is out, the danger signs have been posted. Seems to me wisdom would be to heed the signs.

    February 28, 2010 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  15. Jim

    We are wasting nearly a trillion dollars per years in the inefficiencies in our health care system, so why are the democrats so reluctant to fix health care BEFORE trying to add 30 to 50 million more people into the system? The people being added are not likely to pay for their care and will be the most costly users of the system.

    I am an independent and although I voted for Obama I am hopeful that Americans will go to the polls in November and vote democrats out. These guys are so obssessed with adding more entitlements they forget that tax payers are voters too. I am tired of government expecting so much from those willing too work and so little from people who have made a life out of public assistance.

    February 28, 2010 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  16. Jenn, Philadelphia

    This is the Democrats response to the American people's message that we'd like them to work on jobs and the economy? I guess come November we'll have to send a different message. Maybe they should hurry up and extend jobless benefits. I think some of them are going to need them.

    February 28, 2010 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  17. Turn Texas Blue

    Pass the bill.

    February 28, 2010 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  18. Andy

    NC I tried to give good paying jobs with very good insurance to people in Chester SC and like so many,they would not work.Now they cry and want to be cared for by the "government".I have no sympathy for them,when you are too lazy to work when work is available,suffer the consequences.I do not owe them anything nor does the government.

    February 28, 2010 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  19. Adam

    1 trillion dollars deeper in debt, going directly against the will of the people and obtaining absolutely ZERO bipartisan support.

    WAR. Bring it.

    February 28, 2010 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  20. Adam

    WAR. 1 trillion dollars deeper in debt overnight. WAR. Giant win for the insurance companies. WAR. Going against the will of the people. WAR. No bi-partisan support. WAR.

    February 28, 2010 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  21. Chipster

    Businesses cannot afford to continue to offer health coverage. My organization went to a new company and high, very high, deductible last year because premiums increase 84%! That is NOT a typo – 84%! We changed insurance companies and still paid a 55% increase!

    Businesses cannot continue to afford to offer insurance and employees cannot continue to pay their increased portion of the cost.

    The nation cannot continue to pay for the increasing number of uninsured who go to emergency rooms for care when they're at death's door. Our military is paying an increasing portion of their budget for health costs.

    Do you understand? The situation is unsustainable. The cost to individuals, businesses, and government is expanding at an alarming rate. We cannot continue this strain on our economy.

    February 28, 2010 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  22. puffery

    we, the US citizens are living in a country that refuses to acknowledge tis own DEMISE...until it can fess up to this REALITY, it will go down the TUBEEEEESSSZ!!! with no cuming back............................................

    February 28, 2010 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  23. Four and The Door

    Eilene February 28th, 2010 4:40 pm ET
    "Jammed down the throats of a public" as in what Bush did with the Iraqi WMDs and the resulting debacle war there???
    The difference is that Bush was successful with Iraq. The objectives have been met. No debacle, just another American success. What has Obama accomplished? How's that Stimulus bill working out?

    February 28, 2010 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  24. redsoxfan

    @Change? NO Exclusion and Alienation? Yes.....I'd just like to remind you as a fellow Massachusetts voter, whether this health care bill or not, it still means YOU AND I have to have healthcare, it's kinda state law, or have you forgotten that one already? And by the way, you can stop blaming Obama for your state's mistakes from 2006. Now who do we have to blame for MA residents having to have health care, even if you're like me and can't afford COBRA? Hmmm....oh yeah, Mitt Romney. Which party is he? Bush can tell you that one even, he was a Republican. So where's this anger at Obama coming from us MA residents? Typical...blame a black man for a white man's mistakes.

    February 28, 2010 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  25. Beth Illinois

    Get this thing done...reconciliation on a small part of an already passed bill is NOT the end of world...it's a majority vote. The American people WANT health care reform...NOW. The Dems are more apt to lose the election this November if they back down than if they bite the bullet and get this thing DONE.

    February 28, 2010 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
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