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Tom Daschle on Reconciliation

From today's Wall Street Journal:

By far the best path to success is to continue to pursue a traditional, bipartisan solution. I have great admiration for former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole and Howard Baker who, earlier this year, demonstrated remarkable strength and leadership in working with me through the auspices of the Bipartisan Policy Center to propose a compromise on comprehensive health-care reform. That compromise — which included focusing on preventive care, controlling costs, creating health-care exchanges, and other ideas — can be a blueprint for progress on health reform in Congress this fall.

However, should Republican intransigence continue, Democrats cannot simply stop. They cannot ignore the human suffering as well as their fiscal responsibility to act. They must focus on the budgetary implications of health reform and use the Senate rules of budget reconciliation to allow a health-care bill move with majority support. The choice between complete legislative failure and majority rule should not pose a dilemma for any Democratic senator.

Republicans who cry foul have only themselves to blame. First, they walked away from the table even though they had many opportunities to participate in White House meetings and in House and Senate committees over the past eight months — and eight years.

Second, they set an ample number of precedents over the past decade in using their majorities then to pass their agenda using the same reconciliation rules in the Senate.

Perhaps Republican Sen. Judd Gregg put it best when his party used the budget reconciliation process to drill in ANWR. "Is there something wrong with majority rules?" he asked critics of the move. "I don't think so."

By Ezra Klein  |  September 3, 2009; 8:19 AM ET
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As a reminder, the Daschle-Dole plan:
-No public option
-(Weak) state / regional exchanges
-Individual mandate
-Cap on out-of-pocket expenses
-Other ideas too vague to mention

What's missing? Oh yeah, cost control--the whole point of health care reform.

Posted by: bmull | September 3, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Ezra doesn't say if Republican Sen. Gregg now opposes the Dem's use of reconciliation to pass health care reform bill, so I suppose it's conceivable he's consistent. However, as this fellow's letter to the editor, printed in yesterday's New York Times, shows, the NY Time's editorial board is quite hypocritical:

To the Editor:

Your editorial favors using reconciliation bills to pass comprehensive health care reform through the Senate, arguing that “the ideological split between parties is too wide” to achieve a compromise. But in your December 2005 editorial “Protecting Public Lands,” budget reconciliation bills are called “a handy hiding place for ideas that could never stand up to public scrutiny on their own.”

If it is wrong to legislate through this backdoor channel on a relatively minor issue like whether the holders of mining claims should be allowed to buy public land rather than leasing it, isn’t it even worse to enact legislation affecting the health of millions of people through this same method?

Furthermore, how can one square this view with your March 2005 editorial “Walking in the Opposition’s Shoes,” which calls the filibuster a “peculiar but effective form of government”?

Galen Simmons
New York, Aug. 30, 2009

Posted by: tbass1 | September 3, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Galen Simmons:

I think it's safe to say that Sen. Gregg isn't consistent. "Some Democrats are considering a strong-arm tactic called 'reconciliation' that would allow senators to pass a bill without the 60 votes usually needed to avoid a filibuster. Gregg said that would be a disaster."

Also: "'It is not appropriate to use reconciliation, which cuts off the role of the Senate, on something as broad and extensive as rewriting the health care laws of this country,' Mr. Gregg said..."

But what's wrong with majority rules?

Of course, pointing out an about-face doesn't show which position is right.

Posted by: dasimon | September 3, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse


Thank you for the Gregg quotes. I suspected he was being hypocritical himself but wanted to allow for the possibility that he was consistent. I want to point out, though, that I was quoting Mr. Simmons' letter; the post above was mine.

I agree with your point that the hypocrisy displayed by botyhe the supporters and opponents of the use of reconciliation for health care reform is separate from whether it ought be allowed. I guess that's a question for the Congressional parliamentarian to decide. My point was that, contra to the impression Ezra may have given in his post, hypocrisy on the issue is not limited to the Republicans and their supporters.

Separately, I think the public's perception of whether Democrats (through a change of the law in MA to allow for the appointment of an interim Senator and/or the use of reconciliation to pass their reform plan) are seen to be acting in a partisan manner and abusing their power to get their way is important.

Posted by: tbass1 | September 3, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

How bout listening to the people for a change instead of you thinking you know best what's good for the 'little people'?
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that opposition to the plan has increased to 53%, up nine points since late June.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | September 3, 2009 9:49 PM | Report abuse

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