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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Health Reform and Reconciliation: The Budget Says Go For It

Amidst all the Republican caterwauling about Democratic intentions to “ram through” final enactement of health care reform via the budget reconciliation process, two very important points have gotten lost. First, reconciliation would not be used to enact a comprehensive bill; that’s already been done in both Houses. It would simply involve a relatively short list of changes to the Senate bill.
But second, and just as important, is this reminder from Brookings Institution economist Henry Aaron (via Jonathan Cohn):

The 2009 budget resolution instructed both houses of Congress to enact health care reform. The House and the Senate have passed similar but not identical bills. Since both houses have acted but some work remains to be done to align the two bills, using reconciliation to implement the instructions in the budget resolution follows established congressional procedure.

Unless provisions of the proposed “fix” of health care reform are adjudged as non-germane to the budget under Senate rules (and they will almost certainly be designed to avoid that problem), then use of reconciliation for that purpose is perfectly appropriate, and only questionable if you think the entire Congressional Budget Act, which provides for simple majority votes on both budget resolutions and reconciliation bills, is questionable. So Republicans who are screaming about this scenario need to be challenged to tell us if they favor repeal of the Budget Act, and an actual expansion of the ability of a Senate minority to obstruct legislation via filibusters.

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