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. found work without help of stimulus or obama

    nancy pelosi and all democrates are now in a process to go against the will of the American people. It is time for every American to stand up against these Hitler advocates and tell them they work for us and not for the Hitler regime that they have developed. Tell the Hitler Advocates that if they push against the will of the American people that they will be in the unemployment line with the rest of us. It is time to act and time for a real revolution against this group of Hitler types.

    Down with Pelosi, Reid and Osamabama.

    February 28, 2010 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  2. found work without help of stimulus or obama

    nancy pelosi and all democrates are now in a process to go against the will of the American people. It is time for every American to stand up against these Hitler advocates and tell them they work for us and not for the Hitler regime that they have developed. Tell the Hitler Advocates that if they push against the will of the American people that they will be in the unemployment line with the rest of us. It is time to act and time for a real revolution against this group of Hitler types.

    February 28, 2010 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  3. Frances

    Washington needs to past healthcare reform. The BEST way would be to do it with a public option. Yes, I said it. Who cares where the money for healthcare is coming from as long as people aren't dying because they do not have it. I'm sick and tired of these corporate run Republicans making it seem as though to get it done in a way contrary to what's best for their businesses is not what's best for America as a whole. The psychology of it all has been working on Americans who aren't willing for think for themselves so they fight for the cause and ideas of someone else. I do believe though that those whose lives have been personally effected by losing a loved one who passed away because of inadequate or no healthcare or who has watched a loved one suffer for those same reasons, get it. Sadly, because of the Republican campaign to save their own and their friends bank accounts, we, as a country, may never get what we truly need to protect us in times of medical need.

    February 28, 2010 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  4. Jerome

    Canada owns the Golden podium and without a doubt the best in hockey worldwide.

    A country of 30 million against a country of 300 million.

    Wow...what a major accomplishment !

    Hope whoever reads this knocks NBC for the 3 hour delay in showing the game...like who's gonna watch it now.

    What losers.

    February 28, 2010 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  5. CJ

    The Republicans have prevented from coming into law every major legislative act over the past 30 years that would benefit this “Democracy” and bring about real reform to many of the country’s current problems. They have prevented this country from going forward purely because of the need to remain in power and their ideological belief that this country should be governed from the “right”. This is in stark contrast to the “majority” and thus is contradictory to most of the major legislation proposed in our current environment. The Republicans have repeatedly tried to speak for the American people on Healthcare as to suggest if by saying “the American people do not want this reform” enough, the people will actually believe it. The Republicans have not presented anything of substance that does not involve the diatribes of “start-over” or “scrap this bill”. Americans have been waiting for Healthcare reform for the past 20 years. It’s time to move on with or without the Republicans.

    February 28, 2010 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  6. Fed Up

    Here I thought that this reconciliation vote was a big thing, then I find out the Republicans used to do it all the time.

    So what's the big fuss if the Dems go for it?

    That's what I thought ... It isn't a big deal after all.

    February 28, 2010 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  7. Dennis

    If the Democrats use Reconciliation to take our current healthcare system and replace it with higher taxes, less access to our Doctors, higher out of pocket expenses, less coverage, just to spread coverage to people who can't work to provide their own care, it is grounds for the next civil war!

    February 28, 2010 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  8. marty

    One more thing......Republicans call our Healthcare system "the best in the world". We, the U.S.A, rank 37th.....that's THIRTY- SEVENTH in the world. That should say all that has to be said.

    February 28, 2010 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  9. bob

    Kamakazi mission? I want Democrats to think about the American public instead of their election prospects. Ram health care down the throats of those who keep saying "no." We are a brave country who can overcome obstacles. Right now Republicans are the obstacle in front of health care for millions of American citizens. Shame on them for their greedy, self centered position. They will NEVER reform health care. They have no intention of helping anyone, but themselves. I can't wait to see these fat-cat Republican's taxed. - I want to hear their screaming, lame talking points then.

    February 28, 2010 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  10. Pete

    They're going for reconciliation and using the Senate bill as the basis? A little climate check on both bills – House bill the Dem base liked, as did the majority of the American people. Senate bill EVERYBODY hated because it was a limp, ineffective piece of pork.

    I don't care how worked over it is, it's a bad move to have that as the base of the new bill because the straw man is already drawn up – "here's what they wanted to pass", argue against that until someone points out that isn't what got passed, then it's "lucky we talked them down to this" – even though the Repubs have done nothing constructive in reformulating this bill.

    February 28, 2010 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  11. texasgreenacres

    ram it through and see who gets their money cut off.Folks this is a money game.sure we pay them big salaries but it won't make a dent in the money these leeches get from outside interest.

    February 28, 2010 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  12. Sam

    American Medical Association endorsed the bill. AARP endorsed the bill. Hospitals want a single payer. Millions of people need coverage. Cobra for 3 now costs more than average home mortgage.
    How can anyone in their right mind scream "we want denial of coverage based on preexisting condition"?
    The only ones who do not want the reform are those who want Obama to fail by any means. Screw these.
    Even if it costs you in November – DO the RIGHT THING for the AMERICAN PEOPLE!

    February 28, 2010 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  13. Tony T

    if recon would actually work, the loons on the left would have done it by now. This bill is dead!!! Knucklehead Pelosi can do all the lying and blustering she wants. But the House won't pass the Senate version unless the Senate provides fixes first. Even if that could happen, which it can't, abortion can't be "fixed" thru recon. So its a dead issue. Stop ignoring the American people and do it with small bills that are not chocked full with bribes, nudges toward socialism and all of the special interest kickbacks the loony left seem to love.

    February 28, 2010 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  14. Amber

    Seriously people, the Democrats do not care anymore about the people of this country than the Republicans. Washington is full of a bunch of self serving arrogant people, who only care about furthering themselves. The dems cut sweetheart deals just like the Republicans, just with different people. I think we need to do a Full house and Senate "cleaning" and get some people there who actually give a darn about our country. Obama, Pelosi and Reed aren't nor have they ever been poor, or even working class people for that matter. So to pretend that they know something about the average American is laughable!

    February 28, 2010 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  15. Rick McDaniel

    If the Dems pass it, just wait until November and then let the GOP repeal it. The Dems will be gone.

    February 28, 2010 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  16. will

    I look at the current Democratic Party and just see a bunch of sociopaths. They do not care about the people of this country, the future of this country or even healthcare. This is just about power before it gets taken away from them in November.

    February 28, 2010 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  17. Sam

    It is very interesting how the debate is going on.
    People supporting the bill talk about uninsured, coverage, costs, people's needs, their own experiences, etc.
    Those who oppose the bill talk about November elections, "political sucide", "kamikaze mission", votes, filibuster. The only thing they care about is "who is going to win", as if it was some kind of game.
    Even if it costs you in November – DO THE RIGHT THING FORE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE!

    February 28, 2010 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  18. Will 18E

    Budget reconciliation was created during Regan's first term by the GOP.
    It's been used 22 times. 16 by the GOP, and 6 by the DEMS.
    But get ready for the cry baby GOP taking about how unfair and unconscionable it is: After the GOP refusal to participate in the legislation in the first.

    February 28, 2010 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  19. Tony T

    "I didn't hear a single republican complain or pay for the huge tax cut "... Way too many loons on here complaining about the GOP stopping this legislation. WRONG AGAIN LOONS!!! We The People stopped it in Mass. When the Dems can't hold onto "Teddy's seat", I would say the Dems arrogant far left lony butts are history in 9 short months. Thank The Lord!!!

    February 28, 2010 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  20. Ethan

    `Step by step,` `start over,` `government takeover,` `socialist.` These are Frank Luntz talking points on how to kill the reform that even Republicans know we need. Whenever you hear them speak any of those phrases you know they are trying to deny Americans the change we need and voted for. Remember these GOP lies this coming November after they are forced to explain why they opposed health care reform that will benefit all Americans.

    February 28, 2010 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  21. Edwin


    If you look closely at actual polls, you will notice that the majority of Americans might oppose this bill as a whole, but they support EACH PART OF THE BILL individually.

    What does that say? It says that in spite of all the negative press, Americans still feel Health Care Reform is necessary. They are nervous about a "large" bill but they want it.

    So... I also think the reconciliation process should be used, because it will show that Democrats can actually govern this country instead of keeping it from advancing.

    Who is right? Will the GOP make big gains in the fall? Small gains? No gains at all? We will see, but I am glad that democrats are at least TRYING to help Americans.

    February 28, 2010 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  22. SAGG

    Ron February 28th, 2010 4:50 pm ET

    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!!

    You got it, Ron, old boy! Unfortunately for you, you couldn't be more wrong on the decision thing. most Americans DO want health care reform, and they're going to get it with this bill. Push it, Dems, push it like Ron says! PUSH IT!!

    February 28, 2010 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  23. Robert

    It is political suicide for the Democratic Party to do this, and they know it. I doubt they will take this path

    February 28, 2010 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  24. Steve in Los Angeles

    Everyone please spend a few minutes researching reconciliation
    and please tell me where this process was intended or should be
    used to pass a piece of legislation.

    I don't believe any of us want to see our Senators pass legislation like this,
    and remember the knife will cut both ways.

    Whgat is next, when the Republicans have the opportunity in years to come, will they pass laws this way?

    not a good way

    February 28, 2010 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  25. vahe

    finally Dem are going hard on this clowns.. GOP has no future for tthis country and we shall all know that GOP needs to leave our government. LETs GO DEMS AND OBAMA!!!!

    February 28, 2010 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
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