Monday, March 1, 2010

Microreconciliation

There's a certain amount of freakout occurring over this quote from Kent Conrad (D-ND):
"Reconciliation cannot be used to pass comprehensive health care reform," said Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. "The major package would not be done through reconciliation"

But as Congress Matters helpfully points out, that's just fine; it has never been the official plan A to pass health reform through reconciliation. Indeed, even in the current situation, reconciliation would only be used to pass modifications to the bill. The bill has already passed the Senate and is waiting to be passed by the House under regular order in traditional Schoolhouse Rock fashion; one chamber passes a bill, and then the other chamber decides it's good enough that they'll pass it too.

To review, reconciliation has been used to pass the Bush tax cuts; the 1993 Deficit Reduction Act; a number of other bills such as the original CHIP, COBRA insurance continuation, and two budgets under President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich; and welfare reform. All of these bills represent substantially more significant bills than the sidecar modifications to health reform. Meanwhile, thanks to de facto gerrymandering in the Senate, the 55 or so Senators who vote for the reconciliation sidecar will end up representing about 63% of the population. There's no cause to freak out about some sort of abuse of power here. None.

5 comments:

Rousseau said...

I think the quote is in fact very worrying. I mean it's not like Conrad sees things the way you do, and is just laying down a objective rule. He is making commentary about the specific moment we are in, and that is having the Senate pass a budget change modifying the already passed Senate bill.

Anonymous said...

Rousseau is wrong. Elsewhere in the interview, Conrad said what appears below. He is clearly suggesting that the House pass the bill, and the House and Senate make budgetary modifications via reconciliation. That is what the Dem leadership is advocating.

"On the major Medicare or health care reform legislation, that can't move through reconciliation. The role for reconciliation would be very limited. It would be on side-car issues designed to improve what passed the Senate and what would have to pass the House for health care reform to move forward. So using reconciliation would not be for the main package at all.

It would be for certain side-car issues like how much does the federal government put up to pay for the Medicaid expansion? What is done to improve the affordability of the package that's come out of the Senate?"

Nicholas Beaudrot said...

As far as I can tell that whole Politco article, as well as the last half of the exchange with Bob Schieffer, was just Yet Another act of journalistic malpractice.

Jonathan Bernstein said...

I suspect 55 is low. If the House has already passed both bills, I think they might get all 59 Dems...hard to tell with Holy Joe and the Benator, but I wouldn't be shocked.

ikl said...

As Anonymous points out above, Conrad wasn't saying anything especially controvertial. Apparently he is since publicly complained about journalists misrepresenting what he said because they can't be bothered to understand how reconciliation works.