Democrats Could Resort to Procedural Rule to Avoid Healthcare Filibuster

By Alan Stewart Carl | Related entries in Congress, Health Care, Reid, Senate

Thanks to a little-known congressional budget procedure called “reconciliation,” Democrats could pass sweeping healthcare reform without fear of a Republican filibuster in the Senate. When President Clinton wanted to use the rule in 1993, Democratic leaders in the Senate decided they didn’t want to abuse Senate rules on such important legislation. Sixteen years later, things have change. Majority Leader Harry Reid has made it known reconciliation should remain on the table.

What is reconciliation? Here’s the summary:

Reconciliation is a procedure under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 by which Congress implements budget resolution policies affecting mainly permanent spending and revenue programs. The principal focus in the reconciliation process has been deficit reduction, but in recent years reconciliation has encompassed revenue reduction generally and spending increases in selected program areas.

So, since healthcare reform is expected to be part of the new budget, it can be swept in through reconciliation.

Bear in mind, Reid has also stated that the bipartisan bill currently in the works from Democrat Max Baucus and Republican Chuck Grassley should be given a chance. I hope this is the opinion of President Obama as well, because resorting to reconciliation on such significant legislation would probably destroy any chance of bipartisanship in the future. Yes, some Republicans will obstruct whatever healthcare bill comes up for a vote, but there are still enough reasonable Republican Senators for the Democrats to be able to craft a balanced bill that can avoid a filibuster.

I understand Democrats are eager to reform healthcare and that it is an issue that needs some form of government action (to, if nothing else, correct previous, bad government actions from the municipal level to the federal level). But passing the first bill which can win 51 Senate votes is very unlikely to yield balanced, smart legislation. Giving Republican Senators a voice will ensure the regulation-happy contingent of the Democratic party will be somewhat subdued by smart deregulatory ideas that exist on the right.

I’m pretty sure a large majority of Americans want healthcare reform. Hopefully we will get reform that the majority can support.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 25th, 2009 and is filed under Congress, Health Care, Reid, Senate. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

13 Responses to “Democrats Could Resort to Procedural Rule to Avoid Healthcare Filibuster”

  1. SD3 Says:

    Hey, go for it. It’s not like we’re going to turn away from the cliff were sppeding towards. Might just as well hit the accelerator & go out ‘Thelma & Louise’-style, eh?

    You know, the beautiful irony of all this is that liberals, flush with invincible political power, will (at least legislatively) finally see all of their pet-project dreams come true.

    And once the dollar collapses under the weight of hyper-interst rate increases, every social program ever conceived (and coincidentally NOT mandated by the constitution, BTW) will go away: the ‘Great Society’, social security, food stamps, healthcare, public schools, federal funding of Planned Parenthood, low income housing, etc.

    And then you’ll understand what printing cash is really all about.

    Then we’ll rebuild society (for history to repeat itself yonve more).

  2. Jim S Says:

    What Republicans want a voice to use for something positive in actual health care reform? I haven’t heard one Republican who wants anything but to keep health insurance as insurance of the financial health of the insurance companies. They claim otherwise but somehow that always seems to be the end goal of their plans, if you judge them by their proposals instead of their rhetoric.

  3. michael reynolds Says:

    I no longer believe that the party of Rush has anything useful to contribute on this or any other subject.

    Nor do I believe they are even slightly interested in contributing anything of value.

    Alan, I think you’re seeing the GOP through a lens of nostalgia. The GOP is dead. A zombie party entirely in thrall to a race-baiting radio goon.

    A shame, because we do need a second political party. I’m hopeful that someone will start one.

  4. Smooth Jazz Says:

    I thought I heard something about how passing things with the procedural vote doesn’t make it a law per se. It makes it something that expires within a number of years. So it could be that healthcare passed in this way could expire, just like the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

    I guess it really depends upon moderate Dems (Conrad, Bayh, etc) and the handful of moderate Reps that are left.

  5. Jacob Says:

    sorry but there aren’t smart voices about deregulation in the current Republican Party. The Democrats aren’t great, but we need to move to the left just to get back to the center. It’s convenient that we forget that the Republicans used the reconciliation process to keep the Bush Tax cuts for the weathiest alive. I say the Dems should grow a set a push through their legislation. Republicans lost their power and they need to let the majority rule and suffer the consequences, much like the Republicans did in this past election. Bipartisanship is STUPID. Why do we can about bipartisansip- the public should support things that are best, regardless of what party you tend to vote for (and NO form of deregulation will work until we change our culture). Our federal representatives are supposed to be NON-partisan.

  6. Jacob Says:

    sorry but there aren’t smart voices about deregulation in the current Republican Party. The Democrats aren’t great, but we need to move to the left just to get back to the center. It’s convenient that we forget that the Republicans used the reconciliation process to keep the Bush Tax cuts for the weathiest alive. I say the Dems should grow a set a push through their legislation. Republicans lost their power and they need to let the majority rule and suffer the consequences, much like the Republicans did in this past election. Bipartisanship is STUPID. Why do we care about bipartisanship- the public should support things that are best, regardless of what party you tend to vote for (and NO form of deregulation will work until we change our culture). Our federal representatives are supposed to be NON-partisan.

  7. Brian Krenz Says:

    Parties on both sides of the aisle have used this rule. This is nothing new.

    I’m sure the Dems will try to get bipartisan support, but they don’t have time to waste battling with a party that just says no for the sake of saying no.

  8. Rick Says:

    My advise is to look at the routes of the world economy failure through history= The world order control is here (the New super bank is here)
    controlled by a few elites – look at the united states? by the out the bad debts.. government and the federal reserve will own the world bank
    Americans are asleep as usual while they are herded like sheep and the puppet in place is Obama? ask yourselves why? He is continuing Bushes polices..

    The shadow government

    1.Private offshore supper bank (bank of the world
    2.more than 100Taxes- pay toxic- carbon taxes to the Fed(green tax)
    under carbon trade systems all citizens will be forced to pay more taxes to the same elite group owned by the Federal reserve and the shadow government..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waQBIODtiqk&feature=related

  9. Nick Benjamin Says:

    I’m not sure this will actually alienate any of the handful of Republicans the Administration cares about. McConnel et al. are in full opposition mode, which means that they’d Filibuster the Bible if Obama submitted as legislation. And threaten Specter, Snowe, and Collins if they didn’t call Obama the anti-Christ while voting to sustain the filibuster. So Obama can force those three to go through that again, or he can make their votes irrelevant by using this procedure.

    Hopefully Mitch McConnel and his mob will be too busy decrying this use of an obscure parliamentary procedure to bother the trio. If they like it they can support it and honestly tell their GOP colleagues that voting no would make their re-election unlikely and hurt the party, and not help the cause because the dang thing would pass anyway. If they dislike it they can join the mob and build up some GOP cred. Along the way Obama can let eight (nine if Franken gets seated) moderate Dems stake out a position independent of the Administration by voting no.

    If the health plan works great it’ll have enough support to be made permanent sometime in the next four years. If it’s a disaster it should be scrapped and rewritten anyway.

  10. Smooth Jazz Says:

    There is no guarantee that if the program let’s say muddles through or is adequate, and the funds given are only temporary that it would be allowed to continue if Obama lost in 2012. This is one of those existential fights, where there can be only one winner, the Dems or Reps. Loss for either side would be a crippling blow basically for the rest of the forseable American history. If Democrats fail, then they will have lost one of their signature issues AGAIN at a time of the peak of their political power. If Republicans lose and the law is made permanent, it will probably be as impossible to repeal as Social Security is. Americans would become dependent on universal healthcare and thus repealing it would be political suicide. For Republicans, it means that the political center would have permanently shifted to the left towards a more European and Canadian style of government.

  11. Smooth Jazz Says:

    If you believe in universal health care, then the best bet is to try to do it the bipartisan way, and then if that doesn’t work, ram it through with reconciliation. The price you pay is that the funding only lasts for 10 years, but that’s better than nothing. This is actually the current Democratic strategy. The Dems have given Reps until early September to work out a compromise.

  12. Chris Says:

    Like there’s anything bipartisan about the republicans in congress right now?

  13. Paul Says:

    Brian Krenz, you said that both parties have used this procedure. You are correct. However, using such a rule to reform healthcare would be the largest departure yet from the historical uses of reconciliation. Historically, this rule was used narrowly for spending reduction purposes. I know it has been used more widely under the last two presidents, but to dramatically continue that abuse is a poor idea. Unfortunately, both dems and reps have been irresponsible under the last two administrations. It seems that an ability to use power seems to give modern politicians the belief that it is right to use such power. I’m glad Max Baucus is showing restraint.

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