February 28th, 2010
01:30 PM ET
11 years ago

Top Senate Republican downplays past uses of reconciliation

Washington (CNN) – As the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill begin to lay the groundwork to sidestep a likely GOP filibuster of the final version of a health care reform bill, the top Republican in the Senate sought Sunday to downplay past instances of legislation being passed through reconciliation, a special budgetary procedure in the Senate.

“Just because it’s been used before for lesser issues, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for this issue,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on CNN’s State of the Union.

Speaking with CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, the Kentucky Republican also predicted that health care reform legislation would not get a single GOP vote in the Senate and that Democrats would move forward without the GOP through use of reconciliation.

Citing a recent Gallup survey, the leading Republican noted that a majority of Americans do not favor use of the special Senate procedure to pass health care reform. “The American people do not want us to use that kind of parliamentary device to jam this down their throats,” said McConnell.

With a showdown over reconciliation looking very likely, McConnell refused to discuss the parliamentary tactics the GOP might use to frustrate Democrats in their plan to pass aspects of health care reform with a simple majority of 51 votes in the Senate.

“It won’t surprise you to know,” McConnell told Crowley, “that I wouldn’t want to lay out in advance the approaches that might be taken to prevent that from happening.”

According to the Congressional Research Service, reconciliation has been used 22 times since 1981 and the procedure has been used frequently in the past to change important federal policies.

After an upset loss last month in a Massachusetts special Senate election, Senate Democrats were left one vote short of the 60 votes they need to block a Republican filibuster of a health care reform bill. Since then, Democratic leaders, particularly House Speak Nancy Pelosi, have begun to suggest openly that they will use reconciliation to get one of President Obama’s top domestic agenda priorities enacted.

After a year of legislative work characterized by several missed deadlines for completing work on the health care reform bill, Democrats are now shooting to have the bill passed by the end of March. The Democrats’ plan entails the House passing, unchanged, the health care reform bill passed by the Senate late last year and then sending it to the president. Then, a package of changes that mirror the President Obama’s recently released plan would be passed through both chambers under reconciliation rules, which would need only 51 votes in the Senate. The two-step process would avoid having the Senate vote again on those aspects of the Democrats’ health care reform proposals which many political observers believe do not have the support of 60 senators.

Follow Martina Stewart on Twitter: @MMStewartCNN

Filed under: Health care • Mitch McConnell • Senate • State of the Union
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. GI Joe

    Health care has already passed in the Senate by 60 votes. If the House passes the same thing, it's done.

    Then the necessary fixes can be put in place by reconciliation to further save $$.

    Read people - don't just listen to weekly talking points.

    By the way, some of the fixes that will be passed by reconciliation were recommended by the very republicans that WILL vote against it.

    February 28, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  2. j

    The REPUBLICANS are HYPOCRITES! They voted FOR TARP when Bush was in power, to bail out the banks, then voted against the stimulus... but still took the money. How can you defend that kind of hypocrisy?


    February 28, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  3. Denise

    Okay, let me get this straight. Reconciliation was alright with Republicans when they used it to pass massive tax cuts for the rich (Bush's bill) but not to help the middle class get more access to affordable health care.

    February 28, 2010 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  4. America First

    Typical GOP - it's only OK when they do it. It's OK when they have big government. It's OK when they raise the deficit. It's OK when they are not bi-partisan. It's OK when they use reconciliation. Of course, they act like the world is going to end tomorrow when the Democrats do anything close to what the GOP does themselves.

    February 28, 2010 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  5. Mike in Texas

    For all of those who are going to vote Republican, I have a few questions?

    What makes you think they are going to cut spending and cut the deficit? What precedent do you have?

    If they do, how will you react when Social Security, Medicare, Education, Highway Funding, and Veteran's budgets are slashed?

    Will you care when they increase the minimum age for Medicare and Social Security?

    Will you care if they can't fulfill their unrealistic talking points?

    Do you care that they ran up big deficits in better economic times?

    Just asking.

    February 28, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  6. Elizabeth

    The republicans are such hypocrites. They just feel no shame in lying and double speaking. One can only hope that the media finally does its job and starts holding these hypos. accountable for their lies. The American people were against the republicans giving tax breaks to their rich buddies, but they used reconcilliation to pass that reckless bill through congress. Atleast the democrats are trying to do something for the average American people.

    February 28, 2010 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  7. Carmelle

    Basically...when they do it it's justified, but when the Dems do it, it's not.

    Bunch of hypocrites.


    The fixes are what are being put thru reconciliation, NOT THE WHOLE BILL

    February 28, 2010 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
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