opinion

What editorial writers are saying about using reconciliation for health reform

The process could allow the Senate to clear a final health system reform bill with 51 votes instead of 60.

Posted March 22, 2010.

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Republicans warn that the procedural move would subvert the deliberative process in the Senate, but Democrats note that the GOP has used reconciliation numerous times in the past.

Reconciling reconciliation

Reconciliation in the Senate dates back to the 1970s. It is used to streamline debate on important budgetary matters. Floor debate is limited to 20 hours, and the opportunity for amendments is restricted. Most important in the face of unprecedented Republican obstructionism, filibusters aren't allowed. That means a straight up-or-down vote, majority-rule -- as the U.S. Constitution clearly intended. Roanoke (Va.) Times, March 8

Winning health care by a nose not good enough

It may well turn out to be possible for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to cobble together such majorities through threats and legalized bribery. But to do so would not only represent a departure from prior practice with such sweeping legislation, it also would harm social cohesion, as the founders of this republic knew. The Federalist Papers, the essays written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, which appeared in newspapers to persuade Americans to approve the U.S. Constitution, are full of warnings against legislating with transient majorities. Orange County (Calif.) Register, March 9

Pants on fire

Republicans imply they are shocked, shocked -- but they're veteran users of the budget reconciliation process. Since 1981, a Republican-controlled Congress has passed 14 major reconciliation bills, more than half of such measures, according to a Congressional Budget Office report. In reconciliation, 51 votes, not 60, are required to pass a bill. This prevents an outnumbered minority from staging a filibuster and thwarting the majority. Charleston (W.V.) Gazette, March 1

Reconciliation on health care would ignite a fire

In any event, the use of the nuclear option to pass health care reform would be the equivalent of a scorched-earth policy by a president who promised to diminish partisan rancor in Washington. Reconciliation likely would doom many moderate Democrats to defeat in November, leaving the two parties more ideologically polarized than at any time since the Civil War. Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register, March 2

Reconciliation and truth

We aren't fans of using the reconciliation process for this purpose. To approve a change as sweeping as this on a party-line vote strikes us as risky for Democrats and, pardon the phrase, unhealthy for the country. But questioning the wisdom of using reconciliation is different from questioning its propriety. Republican rhetoric notwithstanding, using reconciliation in this context would be neither a misuse of Senate rules nor, in a historical context, unusual. Washington Post, Feb. 25

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