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. grf67

    The repubs are such hypocrites. After helping bush pass several hugh programs with reconcilitation, they now think that the dems should hold to the 60 vote requirement. Reconcilitation still takes at least 51 votes and that is a majority and that it how this country is governed – by the majority not the minority. Screw mcconnel and his friends and the pigs they road in on.

    March 1, 2010 05:37 am at 5:37 am |
  2. Tom in Delaware

    Pelosi is asking members of he caucus to fall on their sword for this HC'll never happen because politicians care more about staying in power than anything else.

    This woman is losin' it.... between 'pole-vaulting in, parachuting in, Itsy-bitsy spider, teensy-weensy'....she's a fruitcake.

    Now she says that a bill that doesn't have even 1 Republican vote now qualifies as 'bipartisan'....yeah....and monkeys will fly out of my butt.

    March 1, 2010 05:43 am at 5:43 am |
  3. Amber

    Typical idiological out of touch rhetoric from Pelosi. The people don't want this kind of health care reform and yet they still are trying every trick in the book to pass sweeping legislation that in the end will strip Americans of their freedoms and liberties. They all need a good slap down that will come in Nov.

    Saying that something is bipartisan just because they conceded "slightly" on one or two issues does not make the plan bipartisan. Votes make it bipartisan since there was a huge amount of arm twisting going on. We still don't see tort reform, buying insurance across state lines or the cleanup of Medicaid and Medicare abuses. This congress is so arrogant to think that we will stand for their power grab and idiological change of America. They have another thing coming. America is awake and those that "think" will likely never elect a Democrat again. We now know all too well who and what they are.

    March 1, 2010 05:44 am at 5:44 am |
  4. Dem No More

    Its not about health care for all. Its about Obama care and what the Dems want.
    Its time for a change. Lets make the change Nov 2010.

    Time to elect a brand new congress!

    March 1, 2010 05:47 am at 5:47 am |
  5. MS Redhead

    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."

    Senator Alexander is SO RIGHT! A majority of Americans DO NOT WANT Obamacare. Americans want GOOD, thought-out, healthcare REFORM–not a Democratic political bandaid. If Democrats think otherwise, then let them commit political suicide.

    March 1, 2010 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  6. Charlie in Maine

    W's tax cuts were passed this way. Those tax cuts did more to hurt this nation than anything Obama has (or will) suggested.

    Win or lose if they try this they will show they desrve re-election. People (including myself ) make a lot of sport analogies but this is not a game it is serious. In sports winning is the desired result. Gettting elected is just the first step. The second more important one is to govern. The Democrats are the only ones on the national stage trying to govern.

    March 1, 2010 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  7. Gop

    Here is the problem we keep having on this one topic and that is a majority of Americans appose this health care bill.

    The arrogance of liberal Democrats and Obama is at an all time high.

    For some reason they believe it’s better to take away your liberty and freedom then to try to help move our economy forward so people can get jobs.

    I find it hard to believe even a liberal would think this bill is worth passing while so many Americans don’t even have jobs. In addition, a person has to be as dumb as dirt to believe this bill will help lower our national deficit.

    March 1, 2010 06:08 am at 6:08 am |

    Fuuuuuk the GOP! Yes, let's stuff it down their throats & treat them just like how we treated the ocean pirates. Talk later.

    I want NO repuglican to take credit for health care reform.

    March 1, 2010 06:08 am at 6:08 am |
  9. Jan

    Republicans are nothing but whining obstructionists. Bush raided the social security lock box and gave tax cuts to the wealthiest using reconciliation, but no way the anti-Christs in the GOP would even consider using it to help the poor.

    President Obama won the national election a year ago with a 54% majority. I'm content if he "jams" everything through with 54 votes anytime during the next eight years.

    It's looking like the billions and billions and billions that the insurance companies spent on "free speech" was a waste of their bloody profit. We can only HOPE.

    March 1, 2010 06:09 am at 6:09 am |

    Go Go Go Democrats! Ignore the threats of the rich and unwashed. You'll get more respect if you stick to your guns and don't give in to terrorism.

    March 1, 2010 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  11. veritas

    Perhaps all those that are so opposed to social programs should form a movement and agree to never accept a Social Security check and never file for Medicare.

    March 1, 2010 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  12. Ryan

    There was a time when Filibusters where only used once a decade, repubs use it nowadays as if using toilet paper .

    It is clear to me that nay-saying repub's are trying to jam down our throat the " jam down our throat" line.

    Lack of health reform gives politicians room to play with insurance company money through lobbyists.

    Health insurance lobbyists have been running wild ever since this bill cam into play , and now suddenly supreme court allows Company's to finance campaign's.

    I am glad "neo con Repub's" are mad at pres Obama, it means that he must be doing something good.

    March 1, 2010 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  13. jules sand-perkins

    Ms. Pelosi's ears have been paralyzed by excessive smoothing chemicals: she cannot hear the American people yelling at her to stop.

    March 1, 2010 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  14. Stallion

    C'mon Pelosi......resign. You are the obstrucing the will of people. You are rationalizing your sick behavior....please resign and seek psychiatric help before it's too late for you.

    March 1, 2010 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  15. RTB

    What planet is McConnell from?

    Which "public" is he referring to?

    Oh, reconciliation is "good" only when the republicans want to use it?

    The republicans had plenty of chances to do something useful for their country and they chose to play their childish, self interest games.

    Come election time I trust the good citizens of the U.S. will vote for real Democrats and rid us of these dead beats.

    March 1, 2010 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  16. Will 18E

    Yes reconciliation to prevent a filibuster has been used a total of 22 times. 16 by the GOP & 5 by the DEMS. So what's the GOP complaint?
    It was the GOP that added over 400 passage to HB3200 in June 09.
    The GOP knew this is what Obama campaigned on, while he ran for and was elected President. IT's the GOP on Sen Max Bauxxes committee that wanted negotiations to go on behind closed doors. It's the GOP complaining the legislation is going to fast, that they can't keep up, but gave the last administration the authority to go to war in less than have the time. OR TARP, twice, in less than two months, at a cost and time period, far exceeding what health care legislation will cost. Not to mention this legislation can reach up to 50 million people, while TARP benefited 125K.
    If the GOP wants no part of this, and the position pills they put into the legislation, to make it fail in the public's eye passes, and without there vote, the GOP has nobody but themselves to blame.

    March 1, 2010 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  17. Pragmatic

    The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress said the French philosopher, Joseph Joubert.

    Problem is that republicans hate progress, hate change, and frame every issue as a "win-loose" battle. Sometimes it seems they hate average Americans.

    16 uses of reconciliation: 14 by the GOP – twice by the Democrats but it's only "ramming" when done by the Democrats?

    March 1, 2010 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  18. Dave

    Okay... I get it.... When the Republicans use reconciliation, it's fine. However, when the Democrats use reconciliation, it's a bad thing. I'm glad you hypocritical morons cleared that up for me.

    Considering that the GOP couldn't care less about health care reform and has obstructed it at every turn, there is no other option. They are in the minority and in this country, in case you forgot, majority rules. Get over it and stop whining like a bunch of sore losers.

    March 1, 2010 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  19. Sheena

    Also, as Obama stated, the Government workers get such excellent insurance and low premiums is because of a large pool of people in it, about adding the rest of the country into this insurance and it would be a much bigger pool and would Really benefit the people.
    Make All Government Workers including the President and his Crooks take the very Same insurance that he and his Crooks are trying to push down the throats of We the People, after all , a quote from Stupid A$$ Peolsi, "What is Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander".
    Also....What about what McCain brought up about Florida's Medicare not being touched or changed while the rest of the Country will get cut....What is this Crooked White House going to do about that, after all, The entire country should be treated equal, without none of these illegal buyouts for votes for this horrible bill!!!! Wake up People, your very future depends on it.

    March 1, 2010 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  20. Mike

    Nancy Pelosi is an idiot. She say the GOP is getting what they want in this bill because it is not what the Liberals want, what she is talking about the changes made to the bill to please the Blue Dog Demon-crats. This bill will cost us over a trillion dollars in 10 years, anyone that thinks this bill will save money needs their head examined. The government can not save you money and the government can not run a program better than private business. There is regulations they can put into place that can save money but the government take over of health care is not the right plan. They say this bill will save the government money but what it is going to do is push the expenses to the states in Medicade payments.

    March 1, 2010 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  21. rachel

    As she sits there defending Corrupt Charlie Rangle. It's unlikely I will vote for any democrate or republicon on any ticket in november both parties are too corrupt.

    March 1, 2010 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  22. Conservative American

    The liberal dem's really don't get it, do they? The majority of Americans don't want this bill. But for the dem's it's ideology over reality. Go ahead Nancy and Harry, push the bill through. It will cost many dem’s their seats.

    March 1, 2010 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  23. Suzanne

    These supposed lawmakers are a sad joke on America. We want and need health care reform, and all they can do is threaten no votes, threaten an instant repeal of the bill, and whine. Can they not act like grownups? Can they not see that pandering to the Becks and Tea Baggers, who are a very small, albeit vocal minority, means ignoring the real problems of most of the country? They are so determined to ruin this Presidency they will do anything. It is very sad, Republicans, and so, so un-American to turn your backs on the country.

    March 1, 2010 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  24. buckwheat

    Let them jam this through.They will be on the streets looking for work like we are next election.

    March 1, 2010 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  25. Reny

    The Democrats are weak. This is the problem with their party. They let the bullies (Republicans) do what they want.

    March 1, 2010 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
1 2