February 28th, 2010
01:30 PM ET
9 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. Black Viper

    Of course it's appropriate when republicans use reconciliation but not appropriate when democrats used it.
    This people are amazing. They have no shame displaying hypocrisy day an night on TV. I wonder what they teach their children at home. They must think their constituants are realy realy realy stupid.

    February 28, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  2. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Republicans have used reconciliation so many times, now they are looking for an illegal tactic.

    February 28, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  3. Jack Sturmey

    This is the kind of dishonesty and "spin" that makes voters angry. When convenient for Republicans, it is o.k. When used by Democrats, it is a problem. Were not the tax breaks by the Bush Administration passed in this manner? The hypocrisy is astounding. But you can count on the following:
    1. Health insurance costs and rates will keep rising if this bill is defeated.
    2. Health insurance companies do not have you or your family's best interests at heart.
    3. They will keep denying coverage for preexisting conditions and any other garbage they can conjure up.
    4. Weasels like McConnell will keep selling out to the corporations every time.

    Please think before you buy into this skewed logic.

    February 28, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  4. Deke

    Good grief! Without contradiction and hypocrisy, there would be no Republican Party!!

    February 28, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  5. Jeff

    Senator McConnell is a hyprocrite whether he realizes it or not.

    Although he considers reconciliation to be a "parliamentary device" not to be used on a big issue like health care, the Republicans use another parliamentary device, the filibuster, to prevent the passage of the health care bill by a simple majority as provided by our Constitution.

    60 votes to get a bill out of the Senate is NOT what the framers had provided for, but is only required by "parliamentary" rule crafted by the Senate. Using a parliamentary device to bypass another parliamentary device, thereby restoring the original standard of the Constitutional framework, is proper. It may also be necessary to bridge the ideological divide that prevents ANYTHING major from getting accomplished these days.

    February 28, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  6. proud dem in nc

    Repubs = double standard!!! They want it both ways and always want their own way.

    February 28, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  7. Debbie

    McConnell and the GOP are just screamers and pocket liners.

    I was a member of the GOP for 35 years. Left the party because they left their core. I believe in a small strong central government. That is different than small government for the purpose of power to private corporations. I'm fiscally conservative but not to the point of cutting my nose to spite my face. Use money wisely but you still must take in revenue to exist. Personally I am socially conservative but that does not mean I believe in the far religious right. After 35 years I couldn't be a part of a party that doesn't nothing but lie. The GOP is no longer for small government. They are for no government except by, for, and of the corporation who are lining the GOP's pockets. Basically they are all Benedict Arnolds.

    I am now an Independent.

    Reconcilliation was used 5 times during the Bush administration ALL for tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy.

    February 28, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  8. maf

    Because Mitch McConnell and the GOP have not participated in a constructive manner, have been obstructionist at every turn (not just on Health Care), have only talked about bi-partisanship, has forced the Democrats to take another tough stance by trying to pass difficult legislation through reconciliation. The American people deserve "change", and the only way to get "change" past the party of NO is to reconcile. Republicans have used reconciliation on lots of bills in the past, now that it is going to be used against them (but for the good of the people), they claim "foul".

    Too bad. Game changing legislation comes when you are swept OUT of power. More to come in November and 2012!!

    February 28, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  9. PaulMoATX

    Regarding the Gallup Poll. I suspect most American's don't know the history of reconciliation, and Republicans tend to have short term memories when it comes to remembering reconciliation efforts. Reconciliation has been used 23 times, with Republicans using reconciliation 17 of those times, including the Bush Tax Cuts. Numerous healthcare related legislation has been passed by Republicans, including COBRA, SCHIP, Welfare Reform, The Balanced Budget Act and The Deficit Reduction Act. I suspect if Americans really knew what the bill will do instead of listening to the pompous right wing talking points and terms such as "Nuclear Option", they'd warm to not only HCR, but reconciliation to pass HCR.

    February 28, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  10. RTB

    What an overblown gas bag McConnell is.
    Do the sour grapes never end?

    The Democrats were elected because the public wants to go in that direction.

    If these obstructionist tactics continue, don't be surprise when a real house cleaning takes place at mid term.

    February 28, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  11. Joyce in South Carolina

    More of the same from tha "Party of NO".

    There is no excuse for their behavior. I wonder how many of the Repubican Senators and House members have ever had to face the possibility of being sick without insurance. I have and it is not fun!!!!!

    The Republicans have no clue how average Americans live.

    Our country desperately needs the Health Care Reform Bill to pass. If reconcilliation is the only way, then it has to be done.

    February 28, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  12. Ken, AZ

    This guy is so full of it. It is apparent that the GOP has learned their talking points well; "jam this down their throats", "start over", "put it on the shelf and start over", "start with a clean sheet of paper", etc. One must give the GOP credit, they do sing well together. However, the health care bill that they claim the American people don't want is the distorted one that the GOP has spent the last year putting before them, not the actual bills that were passed by the house and the one passed by the senate.

    February 28, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  13. Molly Weasley

    Hey, Sen. McConnell: Both houses of Congress ALREADY PASSED reform bills using regular rules. Just because you Republicans fought it every step of the way doesn't mean it didn't happen.

    The reconciliation in the Senate is necessary to remove the things that are wrong in the bills. Of course, the party of no won't support anything anyway, so why don't you just stay home?

    And how can you call the Bush tax cuts, which did more than anything else to create the current deficit, a "lesser issue"? Not to mention many major health bills that passed under reconciliation in the last 30 years, including CHIP.

    The party of no is also the party of no truth.

    February 28, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  14. Jack Lowe

    Of course McConnel downplays past reconciliation tactics – just as he downplays the filibuster, and outright GOP lies like "WMDs" and "death panels." Truth is, we've had enough of the GOP liars to last a lifetime! And their puppetmaster insurance lobyists as well.
    I say sauce for the goose!

    February 28, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  15. Positive

    Translation: It's ok for us (Rep) but not for them (Dem).

    February 28, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  16. Willa-PA

    It must be said that republicans have a way with words and getting their message accross no matter how wrong they are and stick by that, sheeple will follow. They have one message, NO NO NO and think that what they think is right is the bible. Notice how they always over speak someone and keep on talking to get the last word in.

    February 28, 2010 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  17. Chris

    Of course they down play their past uses of reconciliation, because it shows, once again, what complete hypocrites Republicans are. The GOP regularly used reconciliation to ram through bills when they were in charge of Congress. But now that the shoe is on the other foot, all of sudden they find the whole practice to be wrong? And showing concern about public opinion, that's a laugh. I remember a few years back, Republicans wanted to make changes to cable tv. They sent around groups to gather opions all over the county on it. It came back that literally 99% of the public were against it and the reamaing 1% were probably working for the cable companies. What happened? The GOP went ahead and passed it anyways.

    The only concern the Republicans have for public opinion is what they can do to manipulate it so as to get votes.

    February 28, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  18. eolufemi

    Republicans are hypocrites. Simple as that.

    February 28, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  19. Jim

    The Dems and Obama were elected to fulfill their campaign pledges. One was to change the broken health-care system. That's what they're trying to do. So do it! That's how democracy works. If the Repubs are not part of the solution, they are part of the problem.

    February 28, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  20. Colorado Guy

    I quote the article above:

    "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."

    I'll bet that many of these "Americans" are very comfortable, well fed, and have good health care–as does Mitch McConnell and his family, probably for the rest of their lives.

    February 28, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  21. cf

    Iyt is my hope that as a Kentucky resident we can see Mitch McConnell go down to defeat as quickly as possible. Already, we have every plan in place to make certain Jim Bunning's seat does not go Republican in the next election. Kentuckians need a break from the rich boys' club versus real life, and Mitch is hopefully on the way out. Instead of representing Kentucky, all he has done in the past few years is play the part of obstructionist to anything and everything.

    Bush's number one tow-headed boy continues to jam his style of life (keep me rich and you poor) down the throats of Kentucky people and we are tired of it.

    Of course, many of us also are tired of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid but McConnell is the one that has to go first and then we will deal with the rest of Washington regardless which side of the aisle they come down on depending on which issue. McConnell's attitude has always been his way or no way, and it's time send him on his way to oblivion.

    February 28, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  22. S.B.

    What does McConnell mean by "lesser issues"? The prescription drug measure the Republicans passed to subsidize the insurance companies and their tax cuts for the wealthy were by no means minor issues especially considering the amount they have contributed to the present deficit. All three were passed by reconciliation. We could have saved a lot of money if they had been willing to let the federal government purchase prescription drugs instead of subsidizing insurance companies, and those Bush tax cuts were an abomination. After the Clinton administration got the deficit under control, they just couldn't wait to begin deficit spending again, and now they're suddenly SO worried about the size of the deficit. What phonies!!!

    February 28, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  23. Fed Up

    I wonder why, while reading McConnell's comments, the word "hypocrite" suddenly popped into my head.

    Did this happen to anyone else?

    February 28, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  24. Jimmah!

    Of course. When Repugs use it, it's okay. When Dems use it, it's repellent.

    What a jerk.

    February 28, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  25. jbakaregit

    Mitch, get ready to see HCR reform passed. You guys have tried everything to stop it even after being allowed to join the process and contribute.

    Democrat FDR passed Social Security in 1935. Democrat LBJ passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. HCR is a combination of the 2 in terms of social policy as well as a civilian right. Democrat Obama will pass the Affordable Health Act of 2010. Once again, the GOP of the modern era will be on the wrong side of history.

    February 28, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
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