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. gary

    I just hope the Democrats realize that this will be nasty and brutal. The Republicans will pull out all stops to prevent any legislation on Health Care. They need to hang together and support each other.

    February 28, 2010 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  2. Kate

    It always takes the dems to do something to help people. The republicans just work for the rich....and represent the insurance companies.

    February 28, 2010 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  3. Akmed

    Free Health Care Praise Allah!

    February 28, 2010 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  4. Louis

    I am more scared of it no action is taken.

    Health care costs are going up every year at least 4 times the rates of inflation. If we don't do something, plenty of people you have health insurance now won't have it in the future. Think about it, folks. With the cost of health insurance rising, do you think your employer is going to keep paying for it? NO!!!

    Already, there are 40 million plus fellow citizens without health insurance. More of us will be joining those folks if we don't do something.

    Yes, this bill is not perfect but no bill ever is. There will have to be some fine tuning but doing nothing is NOT AN OPTION!!!

    February 28, 2010 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  5. Gerry NH

    We really need health care reform but this is health insurance reform. It is wrtten poorly, behind closed doors, voted on Christmas eve, bribary and exthortion were use. This is not a good deal for the American people.

    February 28, 2010 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  6. Nancy

    Can't wait until November, when we can vote these tone-deaf bums out.

    February 28, 2010 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  7. ED FL

    It appears that it doesn't make any difference whether the Donkeys or Elephants are running the government and /or congress. They both are controlled by and work as thieves to get elected or stay in office. The only hope is to not give a nickel to either of those parties and vote independent or do not vote at all. It won't be long before the politicians will mess up this country so bad that their will be nothing left to steal.

    February 28, 2010 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  8. Rick

    if the Dems force this through then there will be a lot of waving in the country...people waving good bye to the Democrats!! I think Obama is right, in his typical arrogance...this is what elections are for. Vote them out!
    Can the Democrats do anything other than tax this country to death??? Sweeping health reform in the face of a country in a Depression..no problem! Agree to spend $100 billion annually on the farce of global warming...no problem! (that is right...give a despot leader in some country like Idi Amin several billion dollars and I am sure he will buy a windmill with it....) Jobs bill for $30 billion...no problem!! bail out for banks....no problem! when does it stop?

    February 28, 2010 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  9. Steve

    It's about time to call these Repubs bluff. Some action would be nice, for a change. THAT'S what the American people want from their elected leaders. So DO it already!

    February 28, 2010 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  10. Patty in California

    You Go Girl!!!
    Those that want to "start over" are simply pandering to the insurance companies so they can have a little more time to pad their accounts. Those that suggest "baby steps".....like the last 50 years!! Whatever!! Do it like medicare was done and years from now everyone will thank you....Republicans stood in the way on that one too...

    February 28, 2010 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  11. Steve-Illinois

    The Dems should pass it, then they own it! And in Obama's own words, "that's what elections are for." Most people I talk to are completely against this bill. Incumbents from both parties will be voted out. Career politicians have proven they haven't the sense that God gave a goat!
    Common sense will prevail!

    February 28, 2010 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  12. Peter

    I thought the Republicans were all for allowing the "up or down" vote–you're eating your words now, jerks.

    February 28, 2010 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  13. Go Ahead

    Go ahead, use Reconciliation and fuel the storm that will bring you down.

    The failure of the last administration to achieve a bipartisan government lead to their end. If you can not achieve this goal then step aside and we will find someone who will try.

    You have not really tried, you have only give it lipservice.

    February 28, 2010 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  14. Aviate

    How dare the Democrats try to circumvent the GOP's 41-59 majority! What do they think this is, a democracy? Haven't they learned by now that "elections have consequences" only when Republicans win (or steal) them?

    February 28, 2010 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  15. Dan, CA

    Democratic Plan: Tax more, Spend more, Borrow more.

    February 28, 2010 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  16. David from Wisconsin

    Let's get this done. It's clear the Republicans have no interest in healthcare reform. Stop wasting time on them.

    February 28, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  17. VRT

    Nice that the Commies News Network (CNN) is reporting on the one-party rule system we got into. Way to go, commies.

    February 28, 2010 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  18. Marcus Tate

    The government can barely deliver the mail. Why does anyone think that turning healthcare over to the government is a good idea??

    February 28, 2010 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  19. Peter Vaguely

    "Lead, follow or get out of the way."
    -Thomas Paine

    To my dear Republican friends. Please, GET OUT OF THE WAY!

    February 28, 2010 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  20. Jaggar

    The democrats are more concerned with health care than jobs for the American people. Obama has done nothing but put us further in debt. A record setting debt at that. We will see what those of you think about your government run health care when you are deathly ill, and the doctors tell you you are not worth saving because you are too old. Or that they do not have an appointment available for three months, yet you have stage four cancer and can not get treated. You people have no idea what is coming. Obama and Pelosi don't care because they have 'special" health care. They aren't going to be on this plan. I guess if you are one of those freelaoders you will be very happy about this plan. This will be the final nail in the democrats coffin!

    February 28, 2010 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  21. Suzanne

    Since the polling on this bill is based on people not knowing the truth about what's in the bill, those polls are hardly accurate. When people are polled on individual components, the feelings are very positive toward the bill When you have Republicants coming out with outright falsehoods (death panels, higher taxes, lack of service) then the poll numbers for the overall bill decline, as they wished. But I believe a clear majority in this country WANTS reform, and they do not want it in 10 years when another Democratic Congress starts over. They want this done now...so by whatever means, get it passed! The whiners will be proven wrong (and this is what they fear) and the Republicans will fade away in November (what they REALLY fear!) They do not dare vote for this bill, because they are all marching and chanting :"Obama must fail" behind closed doors. These are scary times for democracy, when lies threaten our whole system of government. And by the people who walk around with the Constitution in the hand not holding the gun (or is it the Bill of Rights, Mr. Suntan?)

    February 28, 2010 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  22. Erin

    The American people could care less about the procedural process. All the 30-45million people without insurance or underinsured don't care how health care get passed, they just want relief from premiums going thru the roof. and by the way, I would bet my last dime that those of you crying about reconciliation have forgotten how many times the Republicans used it. And they used it bigtime. Go Obama!! Get healthcare passed!! What kills me is "poor folks" being used by the Republicans and they are tooo stupid to see it.

    February 28, 2010 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  23. Aviate

    The idea "that it is outside the rules to proceed within the rules [on reconciliation] is a very unique view on the rules." "If you've got 51 votes, you win."
    – Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)

    Of course, that was in 2005 when the GOP had the 51 votes. Apparently conservatives think reconciliation is a special, secret rule only they are allowed to use. Kind of like Calvinball, which must be their favorite sport.

    February 28, 2010 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  24. Tony

    The most fascinating comments are from those who are raving that a majority of Americans don't want this "rammed down there throats." It's one thing for a Republican Conressman to use this talking point, which by the way flies in the face of nearly all polling on the issue. After all, they are paid to do so. The ranters here who are parroting this are like people who blithely wear advertising on their clothes. They are being used. And that the guy from Massachusetts who says he has always voted Democratic, but closes with a whacko slogan about "exclusion" and "alienation"? I think he might be fibbin'!

    February 28, 2010 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  25. Kari

    I am SO TIRED of hearing Republicans say that "Americans" don't want this health care bill, as if 100% of us are against it. They went from saying a percentage of people are against it to Americans are against it. They just keep lying and lying and lying and the people that don't like Obama (for whatever reason...), hear these lies over and over and it becomes their truth. I hope Obama rams that thing through. At least he's looking out for our best interests.

    February 28, 2010 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9