Reconciliation 101: A "Nuclear" Abuse of Power
Why Reconciliation Exists
- What Is Reconciliation? Reconciliation is an optional
step of the annual budget process which allows legislation to be
approved by 51 votes in the U.S. Senate, rather than the
traditional 60 votes necessary to withstand a filibuster. This may
also mean 50 votes plus Vice President Biden as the
51st.This process is a shortcut -- limiting debate,
including floor debate, to only 20 hours.
- The Purpose? Reconciliation was created to streamline
Senate rules to make it easier for lawmakers to achieve the
spending and tax levels in the budget resolution. Period. It was
not created to circumvent the Senate's traditional role as the
"world's greatest deliberative body" and its 60 vote requirement in
order to ram through what may be the most significant domestic
legislation in our history -- legislation whose impact goes well
beyond the budget.
The Byrd Rule: To protect the sanctity of the Senate,
Robert Byrd (D-WV) enacted a rule to limit the inclusion of
non-germane issues. The Byrd Rule prohibits reconciliation from
including measures that do not change outlays or revenues, or
matters that would increase the deficit for fiscal years beyond
those covered by the legislation under debate.
- 60 Votes: The Senate intentionally has a 60 vote
threshold to move important policy issues so that they receive the
full attention and deliberation of the Senate. Centuries of
tradition dictate that is where "we pour legislation into the
senatorial saucer to cool it."
- Precedent:The Senate has used reconciliation in the past
on strictly budget or fiscal matters, including the 2001 and 2003
Bush tax cuts, which as revenue altering bills met the standards
set by the Congressional Budget Act.
The Consequences of Reconciliation:
Stopping the Debate
- Bipartisan Prejudice: 59 Senators currently caucus with
the majority. If reconciliation were to be used to pass health care
legislation, it would disenfranchise senators and those they
represent on a crippling bipartisan basis.
- Future Precedent: By using reconciliation, and bypassing
Senate rules, to pass a piece of policy legislation that overhauls
one-sixth of our economy, the Senate would be initiating a
precedent for future partisan majorities to eliminate thoughtful
debate and pass reckless and partisan legislation "by any means
necessary." Reconciliation bills are limited to 20 hours of debate
and are difficult to amend.
- Who Is Alan Frumin? The reconciliation process leaves
incredible policy issues at the hands of the Senate
Parliamentarian, Alan Frumin. The non-elected Mr. Frumin would be
responsible for deciding what could and could not be included in
the final health care bill, making him the first of many faceless
bureaucrats in Washington who could make important decisions that
affect your health care.
- Checks and Balances: Our Founders designed the Senate as
the "balanced wheel" to offset the passions presumed to dominate
the House of Representatives. This course of action would turn the
Senate into a replica of the House, jettisoning the super-majority
requirement and thereby losing a constitutionally vital check and
A Better Approach to Health Care
- Start Over: Instead of passing a 1,000+ page bill that
subverts the democratic process, and cannot even garner the support
of the entire liberal majority, Congress should start over. They
should create simple legislation that (1) lays the groundwork for
states to be the leaders in health care innovation; (2) provides
economic relief to working American families, giving them real
private choice and nationwide competition that allows them to carry
their desired health insurance from job to job and home to home;
and (3) does not put Uncle Sam in the middle of the doctor-patient
For more information, please visit http://FixHealthCarePolicy.com.