Reconciling with reconciliation
Fox News has started calling the reconciliation process "the nuclear option," which implies that Bush's two tax cuts -- both of which went through reconciliation -- were Little Boy and Fat Man, respectively. Nancy Pelosi has a more apt term: "Majority rule." And as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explains in a new report, there's nothing uncommon about that. Emphasis theirs:
Congress has employed reconciliation many times to make major policy shifts. These include sweeping welfare reform enacted in 1996, massive tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, and creation or expansion of several health coverage programs. Using reconciliation to help enact health reform would be consistent with past congressional practice, as Thomas Mann and Molly Reynolds of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute have explained.
The sharp break with past practice took place in 2001, when Congress used reconciliation to enact a large tax cut that greatly increased federal deficits and debt. Prior to 2001, every major reconciliation bill enacted into law reduced the deficit. In 2003 Congress used reconciliation to pass another round of deficit-increasing tax cuts.
If health reform is enacted in part through use of the reconciliation process, the reconciliation legislation will have to be designed so it does not add to the deficit. In 2007, the House and Senate adopted rules preventing Congress from using reconciliation to increase deficits and debt as was done in 2001 and 2003.
Since rising health costs are the single largest reason for projected long-run deficits, it is appropriate that health reform be considered through the reconciliation process.
More here. As they imply, health-care reform is actually much closer to the intent of the reconciliation process -- which was designed, in large part, to reduce the deficit -- than the tax cuts were. That's why the tax cuts had to sunset after 10 years: Reconciliation has rules to prevent deficit increases, and the Republicans were trying to break them. Health-care reform, by contrast, is designed to reduce the deficit, both in the first 10 years and at an accelerating pace after that.
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