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Contest: Rename the reconciliation process

Rachel Maddow spent last week looking for a less-boring word to describe the filibuster. She settled on the "Tarantino," "because it kills bills." Predictably, the Tarantino now has a Twitter feed.

But I don't think we need a new word for the filibuster. I think we need a new word for the -- sigh -- "budget reconciliation process." The project is particularly important because Republicans have already come up with one of their own: "the nuclear option." There's nothing nuclear, of course, about the majority vote, nor about the process that produced the Bush tax cuts. But there is something inescapably dull in the term reconciliation, and that makes it hard to talk about.

So what should we call the reconciliation process? A TPM reader suggests "majority rules," but that's a bit awkward, and it makes it sound like you're running over the minority. I'm partial to "up-or-down vote," but since reconciliation is a bit more complicated than that, we might need something more specific. You guys can come up with something better, can't you? Winner gets international fame and recognition, plus a blog post on whatever topic he or she chooses.

Update: Some in comments think I erred by saying Republicans want to brand the reconciliation process as "the nuclear option." The nuclear option, they rightly point out, referred to Bill Frist's effort to change the rules of the Senate. That's true! But Republicans are trying to apply it to reconciliation, too. Just ask Fox News.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 23, 2010; 2:47 PM ET
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I thought the nuclear option referred to Democrats attempting to change the filibuster rules at the very opening of the new Congress, when rules changes can be enacted with a bare majority. Which I kinda hope they do, by the way.

Posted by: ctnickel | February 23, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

How about "voting"?

Posted by: wheatthink | February 23, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

I suggest "party time". Because, really, who doesn't like a party?

Posted by: NicholasBeaudrot | February 23, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

You miscast the "nuclear option" as reconciliation, or simple majority vote. This just buys into the Republican notion of awfulizing something that should be a straightforward notion. And misses what threatening the nuclear option can really accomplish.

What the "nuclear option" really is, is having the Senate take a vote on the constitutionality of the filibuster. And if they get 51 votes, they toss the filibuster--permanently. Or at least until someone raises the constitutional issue, and runs it through court.

This is the real nuclear option: threaten to bring a vote on the constitutionality of the filibuster. Not threaten to use reconciliation. Allowing the republicans to miscast one threat for the other just obfuscates the real power of the nuclear option.

Posted by: jc263field | February 23, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Vote Enabling Process

Posted by: Jasper999 | February 23, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Too long I know, but how about 'the democratic exercise of the power of the purse'?

Posted by: normallylurking | February 23, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

"Founding Father Rules"

Posted by: Jasper999 | February 23, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Some possible alternative names for reconciliation:

+ "matching up" process for bills that have already passed the House and Senate.

+ "avoiding a budget disaster like California's" process.

+ And the Republican's preferred rule could be called the #budgetfail option, with reference to California as needed in the explanation.

Posted by: gdcassidy1 | February 23, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

How about the Hostage Liberation Process?

Posted by: OpieCurious | February 23, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Constitutional Voting

Posted by: nisleib | February 23, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps some twist on democracy. Like, plain old "democracy" or democracy rules." (Yes, two ways to read that.).

Posted by: gocowboys | February 23, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

How about Traditional Voting since that's the way Congress has done it for 200+ years.

Posted by: AuthorEditor | February 23, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

"Full Vote Process"

"Floor Vote Process"

"Floor Vote Guarantee "

"Up or Down Rules"

Posted by: Jasper999 | February 23, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

How about Consensus Says or Consensus Rule? Or maybe Common Rule.

Posted by: thomasvanoosting | February 23, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Accomplishing Something for the Country
(otherwise known as "The Twizzler")

Posted by: JJenkins2 | February 23, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Madison-Hamilton Rules

Posted by: Jasper999 | February 23, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

If we want a phrase that is more clear and descriptive of what reconciliation does, I suggest: "resolve the differences."

But judging by Maddow's survey (and other comments here), people seem more interested in a phrase that makes a snarky political comment about the process. For that I suggest: "squaring the circle."

Posted by: billkarwin | February 23, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

How's about a "vote."

If we want to get pedantic about it, it's a "straight vote."

As in, "let's just have a vote on this. None of this extraconstitutional filibuster supermajority nonsense. Just a vote. A straight vote. An up-or-down vote. A good old fashioned American vote."

Posted by: theorajones1 | February 23, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

We don't care what the voters want rule. It fits Bush's tax cuts and HCR.

Posted by: obrier2 | February 23, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I don't think specificity is what matters. What is important is the accessibility of the name, so branding is what we should focus on.

I would go with framing the process as, "democratic vote". The majority is demanding a democratic vote. Huh, isn't it always democratic? I think it's a conversation that doesn't lend itself well to the filibuster.

Posted by: Dan_B | February 23, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

What about the Solar Option? It allows bills to see the light of day for a vote.

Posted by: nkrafft | February 23, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

How about "Critical Vote" or "Emergency Vote" something that suggests the issue is too important to allow it to be obstructed (which is of course the original intent of budget reconciliation).

Posted by: ns269 | February 23, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Call it a Simple Majority Vote - sounds happy, friendly, and much less devious.

Posted by: jeirvine | February 23, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

ZOMG! The "filibuster" is FRENCH! Literally, it's a french word for pirate boats.

I can't believe the Republicans are using FRENCH to govern us. Craziness!

Posted by: theorajones1 | February 23, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Call it "Democracy".

Or, call it "The Super Awesome Coolness". That'll work.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 23, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

To add to a suggestion by Jasper, how about "Guaranteed Vote".

Posted by: Dan_B | February 23, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

since it's a process related to budget expenditures, call it the "Bottom Line."

As in, the Bottom Line? 53 Sentors voted in favor, and it is passed.

Posted by: RSR-phl | February 23, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Enhanced Democratization Techniques.

I hear they use reconciliation all the time at frat parties.

Posted by: slag | February 23, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Since a part of reconciliation is "the Byrd rule," let's call it "Flipping the Byrd."

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 23, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Kind of pathetic that the Democratic Party leaves these kind of discussions to blog readers, whereas the Republicans have salaried professionals out in front on these kind of things. And then we wonder why we're losing the health care debate.

Posted by: sdavis1979 | February 23, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

The Seeger Session
Refering to the the Boss's album "We shall overcome the Seeger Session", in that the proccess overcomes the filibuster to conduct the bussiness of the senate.

Posted by: shadowgunman | February 23, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I think this actually highlights the effective differences between the two parties.

The Democrats face a problem: they have a thing that has a name. They do not like how people feel about this thing, so their first thought is to make a new name for it. If they can get people to like that name, the theory goes, they will really like the old thing and everything will be great.

The Republicans have a thing with a name. They dislike this thing, so their first thought is to hammer that name so hard that everyone associates hates that name.

While it is always easier to make people hate than love, there is a really important lesson to be learned here. Just picking a nice name doesn't get you anything. The other side still has the old name, and in any case the name just represents an idea. Much like the Republicans got the public at large to associate all sorts of bad things with the term "libral" (note that they didn't try a new name of "limp-wristed monkeys" or anything), I see no reason that the Democrats can't try to associate all sorts of good things with the reconciliation process.

"Reconciliation" is a fine word. At its root, the meaning has all sorts of great connotations. But that's not what this is about. Just picking a word does nothing, it's the effort to link other (and honestly in some cases unrelated) concepts to the word that make it politically powerful.

Posted by: Fnor | February 23, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

how about "responsible budget" or "accountable budget" process, as the up or down vote is necessary to get a the budget done within the parameters of the resolution.

Posted by: jduptonma | February 23, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

"Bill Revival Process"?

Posted by: ReservoirPuppy | February 23, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

"Legislative Freedom Process" Who in America doesn't love freedom?

Posted by: nimrodson | February 23, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

We should refer to the process as a fair vote on deficit reduction. Wordy, but that's what reconciliation was designed for--and when it's perverted to fit unfunded tax cuts, it's easier to point that out.

Posted by: bluenebraska | February 23, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Fair vote.

It will drive the fair-tax idiots crazy.

Posted by: Lomillialor | February 23, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

throw a little right wing terminology back ate 'em...

The "Git'R Done Option"

Posted by: pk2031 | February 23, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

"The Tempering Process"

The word tempering has at least two helpful other uses:

1) Tempering eggs: a way of mixing hot cream with eggs in a way that avoids curdling the eggs. So, instead of ruining everything by just pouring the eggs into the cream, you get delicious custard! (The hot-hot house's bill mixed with the cold-cold senate's.)

2) In metallurgy, tempering is a heat treating process that makes metals less brittle, more flexible, and tougher by changing the grain structure of the metal. Basically, you heat and cool the metal over and over in a specific way to get the results you want--kind of like going back and forth between the senate and the house bill!

Also, "tempering" makes it sound kind of calm and sensible (even though it has "temper" in it), kind of like "temperament."

Posted by: Anno3 | February 23, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Respecting the will of the people.

Elections have Consequences.

"The will of the people" has the additional advantage of applying to Democratic filibusters of (most) Republican majorities because of the small state bias in the Senate.

Posted by: BobFred | February 23, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Filibuster means pirates. Because it takes you hostage. Why does it need a better name than that?

Posted by: thescuspeaks | February 23, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

How about the "Catalyst Option"... reconciliation would help to incite activity, would it not?

Runner up: the "Nike Option" (just do it).

Posted by: JVector | February 23, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Why not "a majority vote?" as in: Harry Reid elected to put the bill up for a majority vote.

Posted by: twweaver7777 | February 23, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

a mulligan

Posted by: megankeenan | February 23, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I second Simple Majority Vote. Since it's "reconciliation process," could tack Process on at the end of SMV.

Posted by: nc1123 | February 23, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

In Europe they call it "responsible government" - being able to follow through on the majority's promises.

Posted by: jduptonma | February 23, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Call it the "Post-Passage Cleanup Vote". In the context of Health Care, at least, it's a vote that we're only having after both chambers already passed their Health Care bill.

Posted by: tomveiltomveil | February 23, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Pre-Legal Intercourse
Legislation Counseling
Bill Puberty

Posted by: ejhansen71 | February 23, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

The "Hail Mary" vote? As in the last chance to pass the bill.

The "Pacifier" vote? It stops the crying, yelling and screaming and lets a vote happen.

The "Goal-and-Inches" vote? Self-explanatory.

The "I Know You Are But What Am I" vote? As in I can do it but you can't.

Posted by: JERiv | February 23, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Another name for reconciliation? "Democracy."

Posted by: redwards95 | February 23, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Here's the message: "Republicans don't want to reconcile the budget"

Posted by: jeirvine | February 23, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse


you know, SOCIALISM.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 23, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

"House-Senate Compromise Process"

Accurate, and nice-sounding.

Posted by: Anno3 | February 23, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Straight vote.

Posted by: Lomillialor | February 23, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

*The Republicans have a thing with a name. They dislike this thing, so their first thought is to hammer that name so hard that everyone associates hates that name.*

Where are you getting this from? The entire Republican strategy has been to call things by either appealing ("the PATRIOT Act!") or unappealing ("It's not an estate tax, it's a DEATH TAX!") name in order to shift perceptions regarding what they want.

Posted by: constans | February 23, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Put the phrase "vote" or after any description.
"Reconciliation vote"
"Bill Finalization votes"
"Bill ammendments by vote"
"Bill completion by vote"

When you're trying to decide what movie to go to, you don't say "let's take a simple majority vote", you say "let's take a vote". They're voting on stuff, not majority ruling on stuff.

Script: "After the House of Representatives pass the Senate bill, senators will vote on additional ammendments to refine the bill in a process known as a reconciliation vote.

Posted by: BHeffernan1 | February 23, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Technically speaking it should be counted as a Budgetary Vote-- not optimal framing, but accurate to the intent.

Posted by: adamiani | February 23, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Democratic Option

Majority Option

Majority Method

Get 'er Done Plan

The Plan to Move Forward

Progress Plan

America First Option

Posted by: thefourthbranchcom | February 23, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

OK, OK, I know I just posted it, but after two minutes of thought, I kind of like it.

The rule is, every phrase ends in the word VOTE. Any time you describe the process, the last word out of your mouth is VOTE.

- Why are you against using the a reconciliation vote to improve the bill?
- It's unconstitutional, it stampedes on the minority!
- By taking a vote?

Keep It Simple Senator.

Posted by: BHeffernan1 | February 23, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Combining Robert Byrd's own words with that of the California Governor, one gets either "defrillilator" or "Rasrad" as the name of the reconciliation process.

According to Democrat Byrd, "Its purpose is to adjust revenue and spending levels in order to reduce deficits. It was not designed to cut taxes. It was not designed to create a new climate and energy regime, and certainly not to restructure the entire health care system. The ironclad parliamentary rules are stacked against a partisan Minority, and also against dissenting views within the Majority caucus. It is such a dangerous process that in the 1980s, the then-Republican Majority and then-Democratic Minority adopted language, now codified as the Byrd Rule, intended to prohibit extraneous matter from being attached to these fast-track measures. The budget reconciliation process will not air dissenting views about health and climate legislation. It will not allow for feedback from the people or amendments that might improve the original proposals."

Posted by: rmgregory | February 23, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

The Money Bomb.
Because it requires lowering the deficit and it effectively blows up The Tarantino.

Posted by: ShaneAkerman | February 23, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure, Ezra, after the Republicans take over the Congress after the November elections you won't mind if they use Reconciliation, or whatever you want to rename it, to steamrole their own agenda through the Senate. It would only be fair and as you've been saying ad nauseam for the past few months majority rules.

Posted by: RobT1 | February 23, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

The Fat Lady's Song.

Posted by: bgmma50 | February 23, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

The Democracy Exception to the Filibuster.

Posted by: bpetruska | February 23, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Another nomination for Git 'R done vote.

Or straight vote or normal vote (they are against straights? Normality?)

Or straightforward majority vote.

Anything that makes the filibuster sound deviant.

Posted by: Mimikatz | February 23, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

How about just calling budget reconciliation the "level playing field" vote.

Posted by: keever66 | February 23, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

"Minor Modification Vote"--this phrase is used in consultation literature, when countries have agreed upon the fundamentals but one group reserves the right to make minor changes that don't alter the fundamental nature of the agreement.

"Fixer upper"--the structure of the bill is good, just needs some new paint and new wood floors and it'd be perfect to sell to the public. Also just "Fine Tuning Vote"

Posted by: RyanS1 | February 23, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

My suggestions:

"Fifty-one-and-done" (rhyming!)

"Filibuster-buster" (similar to "trust-buster," which I believe has positive connotations of defeating corruption, stagnation, etc.)

Posted by: Cyco | February 23, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I disagree with you about the name needing to explain more about what the process actually does. Wonks will like that, but they already have their name: reconciliation. The name you are looking for is not for wonks, or political cartoonists, it is for the public. The name should be a pure public relations effort, just like "nuclear option" is for Republicans.

"Nuclear option" explains nothing about the process. In fact, it does the opposite. It paints an unrealistic picture as to what the reconciliation process actually is by branding it as a radical option, not normally utilized in the Senate, with aggressively negative connotations.

Any name Democrats give it needs to do the opposite. It needs to emphasize three things:

1) The reconciliation process is part of normal Senate procedure.
2) It is, for all practical purposes, just a vote where majority rules.
3) It is a positive measure.

Any overly cute name policy wonks try and give it will make the public think it is a trick. If the public believes it is some sort of procedural trick they will hate it, just like they hated the Nelson deal, and all the other back door maneuvering for votes.

For my money, nothing accomplishes these goals more than the phrase we are already using: "up-or-down vote". It is easy to understand, it doesn't sound like a trick, and it is exactly the kind of clear action that the public has been looking for from the stalled Congress.

We don't need to invent something more clever than that.

Posted by: mickey7410 | February 23, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

democratization rule
democratic unification rule
democratic consolidation rule
demos rule
Congressional Procedural Unification Process

Posted by: JTRap | February 23, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

For those in favor of the process: Phoenix - something previously burnt down rising again from the ashes.

and in the spirit of bipartisanship...

for those not in favor of the process:
Deus ex machina - an unconvincing event used to resolve a plot.

Posted by: golden_mean | February 23, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse



Straight vote

Posted by: botkin | February 23, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

How about the "defibrillator." It energizes, depolarizes, and sounds similar to the "filibuster," while appearing to counter it.

Posted by: elt28 | February 23, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Something along the lines of:

Majority Budget Rule

Simple Majority Rule

Democratic Gridlock Rule

Normal Procedure Rule

Really, it just needs to emphasize the majoritarian nature of the rule while making it sound like a standard or normal method, like Bush did.

Posted by: rebowen | February 23, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

I like the Nike Option or Elections Have Consequences Motion. The problem is obviously whether you want a descriptive name - Reconciliation, Estate Tax - or a polarizing name - Death Tax, Nuclear Option, Patriot Act.

**How about: House-Senate Harmony (or Harmonization) Process**

Smacks of the bipartisan, happy-clappy, consensus government the American people seem to want.

Or they could get corporate sponsorship: the Coca-Cola BRP, or the MacVote.

Posted by: nicholasrandel | February 23, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

The Budget Reconciliation Process ought to referred to simply as BURP. It is, after all, the natural consequence of excessive gas in small children, and the Senate increasingly seems to be in the clutches of unpleasant 8 year olds with delusions of grandeur.

Posted by: palarran | February 23, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Just call it the Final Vote. That's all it is. Or the Merging Vote/Compromise Vote to show that it's just merging two bills from two houses.

Posted by: TheWacoKid | February 23, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Compliance vote.

Posted by: 7ecclesstreetsbcglobalnet | February 23, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Functional Governance option!

Posted by: jduptonma | February 23, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

I'm with the people calling it just:


Isn't the filibuster really just preventing a vote? And if a filibuster is preventing a vote on an issue from happening, reconciliation allows a vote to happen. "Straight vote" also works then, I guess.

Posted by: charlie_s | February 23, 2010 9:52 PM | Report abuse

How about "Fixing the Mess" or the "The Fix"

Posted by: LindaB1 | February 23, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to stuff the ballot box. Who's with me on this one?

Since a part of reconciliation is "the Byrd rule," let's call it "Flipping the Byrd."


Posted by: Patrick_M | February 23, 2010 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Actually, rather than renaming it, we should stop talking about it. Dems spend too much time getting bogged down in talking about process and that has been part of the problem all along. What is needed is a simple standard talking point whenever the press or GOP brings up "RECONCILIATION" (HORROR,GASP). Paraphrasing James Carville, that talking point should be
"It's called democracy, stupid."

Posted by: gregspolitics | February 24, 2010 12:47 AM | Report abuse

I suggest "screw the filibuster." That is using language, well, sort of, all politicians and most administration officials can understand.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | February 24, 2010 1:35 AM | Report abuse

i started thinking about it, and then started reading some other suggestions. and i think jasper999 has the best one:

"Founding Father Rules"

because really, it'd be quite a sight to see congressional republicans try and demonize that. they claim to want to live and die by the founding fathers, so let's remind everyone what that would really mean here.

Posted by: schaffermommy | February 24, 2010 2:59 AM | Report abuse

"Presidential override".

The budget reconciliation process, as far as I understand it, is nominally used to bring spending into line with the budget, which has strong presidential associations. It's also been used to push through big-ticket presidential agenda items.

Posted by: jleh | February 24, 2010 7:23 AM | Report abuse

How about "The A Team"
"If you have a problem, if no Republican will help, and if you can find the nerve, maybe you can hire... The A-Team."

Posted by: elijah24 | February 24, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse about renaming the reconciliation (or is it the recon-siliness-option?) process "Majority Matters."

Posted by: kenwinker | February 24, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

How about "The Rapture"? What Republican would oppose that?

Posted by: thevenerablebp | February 24, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

"The Burp" for BUdget Reconciliation Process.

In that it is a sometimes messy, but necessary process for a bill to become a law.

It can also be used as a verb, in that "Congress is currently burping the bill."

Posted by: fruchala | February 24, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

die-hard buster

Posted by: JTRap | February 24, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

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