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. puffery

    I know Chester, SC as a good town. I once was a member of the cast of the movie, CHIEFS. This bloke below my comment knows his stuff. The US is in a quandry right now, no getting out until it decides to turn this country back to the way it was portrayed before the movie, Chiefs, as I said above.

    February 28, 2010 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  2. Laurie

    Democrats, just do it, the Republicans have no interest in helping us with our health care issues, they never have and never will. They stand for 2 things – tax cuts for the rich and big business/wall street. We need courage and conviction – the Republicans did not give us Social Security or Medicare. Now all the seniors are up in arms about their SS and Medicare – I've never heard such crazy talk in my life. Just do it and move this country forward not backward.

    February 28, 2010 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  3. joe m

    if the dems still don't manage to pass this bill through reconciliation then they will have to deal with that disaster. if they choose to ignore the polls that don't agree with their views, they will suffer the wrath of the american voter.

    February 28, 2010 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  4. CR

    The GOP cares only about regaining power. The health care summit fully expose their hypocrisy. Ridiculous talking points, obstruction, selfishness, fear mongering. The Republican Party has nothing constructive to offer. I'm done with them, permanently.

    February 28, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  5. Gus The Willie

    I do hope the initiative don't pass, and hope these old white men who know it all don't pass this legislation so many of the current population will die off. Leaving this country to be governed by the original Americans and the new immigrants. The time of business as usual in Washington had their days, now with the new majority, hope things will begin to thaw for the well being of our country. In as recent as 30 years, the white anglo population will be the minority of this country. I just hope the new majority will now step forward and anti up.

    February 28, 2010 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  6. Brian

    Some comments on this board are just ridiculous. There are not millions of people dieing without health insurance. This government mandate will make you a cradle to grave involuntary consumer of insurance companies. The majority of people it will "cover" are young people between 18-34. This is just another big government intrusion in to our lives cloaked as common good.

    February 28, 2010 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  7. ib

    Poll after Poll shows that people do not want this bill in it's present form yet the democrats are determined to ram it down our throats. Wake up people vote them out in Nov. Congress is supposed to be passing what the people want not what some self centered congress people want aka Pelosi and Reid.

    February 28, 2010 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  8. Jin

    FTITCTAjoke! It is a Repub tactic and it is common procedure. While down their throats is not necessarily where I would like the congress to shove this legislation, it is an important step toward health reform and an important movement toward helping ALL Americans to get insurance coverage. If the party of "no" is not ready to meet their constitutional obligation they must see what will happen. DO NOT let repugnican threats stop this significant progress! We have suffered these fools for eight years. Now it is their turn to endure the will of the American people. DO IT!!

    February 28, 2010 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  9. bob

    The GOP thinks that reconciliation should only be used by them for their own issues, not by anyone else. Total hypocrites.

    February 28, 2010 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  10. bob

    The GOP thinks that reconciliation should only be used by them for their own issues, not by anyone else. Total hypocrites. As was said at the meeting a million times, their ideas are already IN the bill... the GOP does not want any reform whatsoever, not even their own "fake" reforms.

    February 28, 2010 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  11. Scott

    The republicans DO want healthcare reform and I am one of them. However, I dont want the national government being in control of it. The fact they are not getting it developed the democratic way, they are jambing it down our throats. That is a bad sign. They know Nov is going to change things so they dont care what is right. Really a peoples government? I dont think so.

    February 28, 2010 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  12. Vic

    Republicans and Democrats are both completely worthless!!! Obama is just another do-nothing president and the speaker of the house is a "witch"! Employment needs to be the number one objective at this point and time...what good is public insurance if people don't have jobs to pay the taxes that support it? Go ahead bankrupt America...I have plenty of ammo : )

    February 28, 2010 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  13. Scott

    Please pay for my care. Somebody has too. I do not want too. I have limited money and would like to spend it on things more fun. Remember to vote democrat in Nov.

    February 28, 2010 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  14. karthik

    Anyone who is claiming that the majority wants this or that should understand that every individual seems to have a different view of the reform. In my opinion the democrats should get this done to salvage any credibility they have left.

    February 28, 2010 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  15. Lindi

    Repubicans look like a bunch of over-priviliaged, stubborn, spoiled brats. They look like they should belong in grade school. Shame on the GOP.....sure ain't the party Mom and Pop once supported.

    February 28, 2010 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  16. Kaylynn

    Republican Bunning and his stupid mis-fit personality sure maked the Republican Party stand out...in a bad way. Bunning is a half-wit that should have been ousted along time ago. What a twit!!

    February 28, 2010 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  17. Scott

    The Republicans are puppets with the big money health insurance companies pulling their strings. They only will fight for the special interest, wall street and the rich! They never "ever" fight the good fight for the citizens of America. Check the track record of the Republicans the last 30 years and it will tell the whole story. They are the snake oil salesmen, no more – no less! "You will know them by the fruit they bare".

    February 28, 2010 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  18. Joe

    I think the president and the democrats have been absurdly patient and wasted too much time trying to kiss republican butt. The GOP is interested only in finding ways to undermine Obama. Ram it through!
    Yes, the republicans will be apoplectic with rage and will act like spoiled children who haven't gotten their way. What else is new?
    By the way, I'm registered as an Independent.

    February 28, 2010 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  19. Mike in Texas

    Please, enough with the Obama is a Socialist. President Bush and a Republican Congress passed the biggest socialist spending program in 40 years with the crappy unpaid for Medicare prescription plan. They also passed one of the biggest redistribution of wealth programs with massive tax cuts benefit the top 2% of income earners, thus redistributing wealth from the middle class to the rich.

    Under Obama most of us have lower taxes, less restrictive gun laws and liberals are unhappy with him.

    So how is he a socialist?

    February 28, 2010 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  20. indiana voter

    So many Democrats spewing hate and showing ignorance on this website when it comes to the health care debate. Not to mention that most of the liberals on this site are spewing lies straight from the pits of Hell.

    Even Sen. Byrd, who was one of the Democrats that brought the "reconciliation" option to the Senate, has said not to do this because it would be mis-using the procedure.

    Democrats need to be in the minority again... soon.

    February 28, 2010 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  21. coach

    Understand that the bill has ALREADY PASSED BOTH HOUSES. Reconciliatioin will not pass the bill it will refine it.

    February 28, 2010 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  22. Sean

    Reading the obvious republican comments in this blog is frightening to say the least. The blatant fact that some many people can be manipulated by certain buzz words and scared into believing what the Republican party wants is disgusting. Wake up people. The Republican party was in power and led us to this crisis. Their leader Mr. George Bush was responsible for pushing us into war. Why is it that the idea of covering our fellow Americans for the simple fact that we all should have the right to be healthy, upsets so many people? I say JAM it down the republicans hypocritical throats. Let them know what a Democratic party that has a strong leader can do. So many people voted for Obama because he was suppose to do these things. Its about time someone cares for the people who aren't well off or incapable of thinking for themselves. I hope they don't stop giving Republicans a taste of their own medicine.

    February 28, 2010 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  23. Minnesota gal

    So we hear from McConnell that the Democrats shouldn't do this. Oh no they shouldn't. But when they were using reconcilation (more than any other congress during bush's reign) it was A OK. Cause they were republicans and in the majority.

    But Democrats should let the republicans who are now in the minority set the rules for what they do...gee isn't it funny the way the republicans flip flop on issues...all the time....all the time.

    February 28, 2010 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  24. hideaki nagano

    I think moderatism,liberalism,fringe,light, in a good light ,In light of,i think obediense,obviousness.

    February 28, 2010 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  25. Katie B in NC

    Forget trying to reason with the obstructionists and get this thing done! The clock is ticking. Just a few more months and I'll be one of those dependent on the Emergency Room for my care. I'm glad all you nay-sayers won't mind paying for it.

    February 28, 2010 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
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