March 1st, 2010
05:17 AM ET
13 years ago

Lawmakers brace for reconciliation showdown

[cnn-photo-caption image= 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 • Health care • Senate • State of the Union
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Andy

    Once again,the Dems need 2 things for reconciliation 1) votes 2)testicles and have neither.Put up or shut up socialist wasteful spending morons.MAKE MY DAY and do it,then bye bye morons,the people have spoken,and you are not listening as usual.

    March 1, 2010 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  2. Alvin

    It is bizarre that a republican leader (Lamar Alexander) is concerned for the welfare of the democratic party 2010 candidates, warning democrats that "It would be a political kamikaze mission for the Democratic Party if they jam this through." while appearing on "This Week". I like what the President said last Thursday at the end of the meeting that basically the Democrats will do what they have to do to give our country a coprehensive health care plan and in November the voters can decide. If the republicans believe what the sa,y then they should be happy about what the democrats are about to do as it will give them an overwhelming super majority in the house and senate. Also, according to them, most assuredly would bring about a resoundind defeat of President Obama in 2012.

    March 1, 2010 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  3. buckwheat

    I wonder how many left wing nuts are responding to this on a computer bought for them with taxpayer money sitting in public housing, raising their kids on taxpayer money, eating with food stamps and have another in the oven and expecting a raise in about 9 months? Does anyone think this can continue if no one is working and paying those taxes. We are in a dream world. One thing about being a left wing nut is that all comments are posted and it is also free.

    March 1, 2010 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  4. How To Bankrupt America-Put A Dem On It

    Pelosi is a joke.If the dems had the support of their own dysfunctional party,this would already be done.They could not run a kool-aid stand in the desert.Put up or shut up,1 year and still NOTHING to show.

    March 1, 2010 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  5. How To Tell A Dem Is Lying-Lips Are Moving

    The ONLY showdown will be in November when you imbeciles-the Dems have a mass exodus for doing nothing but whining and blaming your failures on everything but yourself.Good riddance.

    March 1, 2010 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  6. Dems another day another lie

    What are you blaming on the GOP today??What is the lie of the day?? What are you idiots blaming on Bush today??Smoke/spin/& lies,the dems.

    March 1, 2010 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  7. jim

    there has been virtually NO republican support of any kind since this administration took office.


    it's time the republicans pick up their end of the deal and get involved in solving the problems!!!!

    and if they don't, then they will suffer the consequences.

    March 1, 2010 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  8. jp,michigan

    Democrats will try to pass the health-care bill, even though meeting with the wrath of the American people. Medicare fraud should have been taken care of years ago. Money from that should go back to medicare. As far as social security, the government should pay back the money barrowed from that entitlement, this would keep it solveant longer. The government barrowed from socail security to pay their bills and forgot to put it back. No wonder the American people don't trust the government. Mr. Obama was all talk on the campaign trail, once in office he has proven he lies, lies.

    March 1, 2010 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  9. Harold Trainer, USAF RET

    This debt commission is all a great idea but until you bring home our troops, cut defense spending, reform robustly healthcare, reform the financial industry so Americans can have a fair and equitable way to invest, there will be no debt reduction.

    We will fight it all the way. But, if the debt reduction is fair and equitable among all classes and people then I would be glad to give up some of my entitlements and earnings and pay more taxes. But, you must end the wars and reduce our defense spending, robustly reform health care and fix our financial system.

    Then you may have some reason to make adjustments to entitlements of average Americans' Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Education, etc.

    March 1, 2010 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  10. Jason

    The Republicans have used reconciliation 16 times to only 6 times for the Democrats, and they used it to ram through unpaid for bills, such as tax cuts for the rich and the prescription drug program. So don't lecture anyone Republican'ts.

    March 1, 2010 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  11. wg

    Reconciliate....disregard the Repubs

    March 1, 2010 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  12. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    My question is why didn't the Republicans do more to put stuff in the planned bill? They are a forceful group. I can't see why they didn't sit down with Democrats they trust (as much as they do) to have them put material into the bill. It seems that something should be done and their objections seem too little too late.

    March 1, 2010 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
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