Monday, August 24, 2009

What is Budget Reconciliation?

The latest buzz in the protracted healthcare debate is over Senator Charles Schumer's suggestion that Senate Democrats may seek to pass ObamaCare via the "budget reconciliation" procedure.

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The obvious problem is that Schumer's plan is fundamentally dishonest. According to the Rules of the House of Representatives:
Created in a budget resolution in 1974 as part of the congressional budget process, the reconciliation process is utilized when Congress issues directives to legislate policy changes in mandatory spending (entitlements) or revenue programs (tax laws) to achieve the goals in spending and revenue contemplated by the budget resolution. First used in1980 this process was used at the end of a fiscal year to enact legislation to fine tune revenue and spending levels through legislation that could not be filibustered in the Senate. The policy changes brought about by this part of the budget process have served as constraints on the levels of mandatory spending and federal tax revenues which also has served since 1981 as a vehicle for deficit reduction.
And here's Wikipedia's entry:
A reconciliation instruction is a provision in a budget resolution directing one or more committees to submit legislation changing existing law in order to bring spending, revenues, or the debt-limit into conformity with the budget resolution.
Democrats would be violating existing congressional norms and formal procedures in seeking an end-run around the filibuster. And it turns out that Senate Dems have encouragement from the White House:
The president and his advisers have started devising a strategy to pass a measure by relying only on the Democratic majority in each house of Congress, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Progressives will argue that resort to "reconciliation" is a common legislative practice; that Senate Republicans used the procedure when they held the majority. For example:
For more detailed information on how exactly the reconciliation process works, see this diary on Congress Matters. This is the same procedure that was used by Senate Republicans under President Bush to pass his first round of tax cuts. It’s been used over 20 times in the past 35 years, by both parties.
Well, if that's the central example of GOP use of reconciliation, the Republicans were within proper procedure in promoting the passage of tax legislation through reconciliation. It would have to be a new twist in lobbying for ObamaCare for Dems to call the legislation an "entitlement" or a "revenue program." The administration's healthcare reform would be a major new social policy expansion - and it would be a "discretionary" appropriation, not a fixed-outlay entitlement. And it's certainly not a matter of routine budgetary appropriations. Thus, it's sneaky and underhanded for leftists - such as Senator Schumer above, but also blogger Steve Benen - to disguise reconciliation for ObamaCare as possible as a normal legislative alternative. As Benen wrote the other day:
Republicans and political reporters are describing reconciliation as the "nuclear option" as a way to make it seem as if reconciliation is some kind of outrageous abuse of the legislative process. It's meant to remind political observers of the time Republicans planned to eliminate judicial filibusters through an outrageous abuse of the legislative process.

They're actually opposites. When Senate Republicans crafted the real "nuclear option" in 2005, the idea was to change the rules in the middle of the game. The Senate can change its rules with 67 votes, but Trent Lott & Co. thought they'd try it with 51 votes. Senate Dems, at the time, threatened all-out political war over this, which is why Lott referred to his underhanded scheme as the "nuclear option."

Reconciliation, in contrast, is part of the existing Senate rules. No one's talking about changing anything -- just following the process that's already in place.
Except, those "existing Senate rules" authorize reconciliation for entitlements or tax-budgeting items, of which ObamaCare is neither.

More at Memeorandum.


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UPDATE: From reader Dave, in the comments:

Dr. Douglas, not to defend Up-Chuck Schumer here in any way, as I find him nearly as despicable as Ted Kennedy, but I think a pretty good argument could be made that ObamaCare is, in fact, an entitlement, right along the lines of Social (In)Security.
Absolutely. ObamaCare will indeed end up as the mother of all entitlements, if fully implemented as the full-blown socialized medical scheme the radical lefitsts want. The issue here is the sales pitch. Obama and the Democrats have not sold ObamaCare as a federal entitlment, because everyone knows we need to cut entitlement spending, which is strangling American solvency and indebting future generations. Leftists can't cram down another "entitlement" on the American public, and hence they can't use the "reconciliation" process unless they say they will.

4 comments:

Dave said...

"Except, those 'existing Senate rules' authorize reconciliation for entitlements or tax-budgeting items, of which ObamaCare is neither."

Dr. Douglas, not to defend Up-Chuck Schumer here in any way, as I find him nearly as despicable as Ted Kennedy, but I think a pretty good argument could be made that ObamaCare is, in fact, an entitlement, right along the lines of Social (In)Security.

-Dave

Rich Casebolt said...

All you have to do, is look at how fast seniors are moved off corporate/union health-care coverage to Medicare, once they become eligible, to see the future of group (and for that matter, all private-sector-provided) health-care coverage once the "public-option" -- by any name, including the Schumer-proposed government-funded co-op's -- is instituted.

Beware, DC Dim Bulbs ... ram this down the throats of the American people, and 1994 will look like a mutual-admiration session in comparison ... and it won't necessarily be your fellow Dim Bulbs in the GOP that are cleaning out your desk, either ... for We the People are engaged as never before, and will insist on better than this, this time around.

Jenifer said...

Remember God loves you and no one can take our God from us.

--
Jenifer
You cannot go wrong on the best security systems

Bob Belvedere said...

Thanks for the lesson Professor.

Linked to at:
http://www.thecampofthesaints.com/2009.08.23_arch.html#1251225965945