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Reconciliation, Health Care, and History

Political scientists  Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein argues that, contrary to Republican claims,   the reconciliation process is neither illegitimate nor rare.

Reconciliation was intended to be a narrow procedure to bring revenues and spending into conformity with the levels set in the annual budget resolution. But it quickly became much more. The 22 reconciliation bills so far passed by Congress (three of which were vetoed by President Bill Clinton) have included all manner of budgetary and policy measures: deficit reductions and increases; social policy bills like welfare reform; major changes in Medicare and Medicaid; large tax cuts; and small adjustments in existing law. Neither party has been shy about using this process to avoid dilatory tactics in the Senate; Republicans have in fact been more willing to do so than Democrats.

The history is clear: While the use of reconciliation in this case — amending a bill that has already passed the Senate via cloture — is new, it is compatible with the law, Senate rules and the framers’ intent.

But the accompanying graphic actually belies that argument:

reconciliation-graphic

Almost every act passed under reconciliation (8/15) has in fact been a budget bill.  And most of those that weren’t (5/7) were tax bills.  The two outliers:  The 1996 welfare reform act and the 2007 student aid package.  Why those were passed under reconciliation isn’t made clear.

What’s also interesting is that the vast majority of these bills were absolute slam dunks.  Most (8/15) were passed by filibuster-proof  supermajorities, meaning that reconciliation wasn’t used as an end-around to avoid a cloture vote.

The argument that Republicans were more likely to use the process than Democrats is meaningless, simply reflecting the fact that Republicans have dominated the Senate over the period in question.   Reconciliation was used six times during the Reagan administration but only once on a bill that didn’t have supermajority support.  The Republicans controlled the Senate for all but the last of those votes.   The Democrats then used it for two borderline votes.  The Republicans used it for two slam dunks, one vote that didn’t quite have a filibuster-proof margin, and one 51-50 vote in which VP Cheney had to break the tie.

The bottom line is that using reconciliation as an end-around to avoid filibusters is exceedingly rare, having happened at most 7 times since 1980.  Of those 7 cases, all were budget or tax measures.  So, using reconciliation to avoid a supermajority on health care reform would simply be unprecedented.

via Matt Yglesias via Brendan Nyhan

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Um… Health care has already passed the Senate. If the House passes the same bill, it goes to the President for signature. Health care will have passed without reconciliation.

    Reconciliation would only be used to make some small changes at the margins, indeed on several revenue issues — excise tax rates, etc. But the core of HCR is going to pass without reconciliation under the current plan.

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  2. Alex Knapp says:

    So, using reconciliation to avoid a supermajority on health care reform would simply be unprecedented.

    Except that the only portions of the Senate Health Care bill that are under consideration for reconciliation are…. the tax and budgetary provisions…

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  3. Tim D. says:

    The Democrats used it to ram through a 51-50 vote, albeit, oddly, one in which VP Cheney had to break the tie.

    Unless I’m reading the chart wrong this is an error. It was the R’s who rammed this through…

    You’re right. I didn’t notice the color coded party ID column as was going from memory. I mistakenly recalled this vote as during the brief period after Jim Jeffords switched parties. Sentence corrected to avoid confusion.

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  4. Wayne says:

    If the all Democrats do is adjust some numbers after the Senate bill is passed into law then yes the Democrats wouldn’t be doing something new. However if they make other changes that change any fundamental elements of the bill then they would be using reconciliation in a way it was never intended to.

    It could destroy the Senate process. Either side if in control of both Houses and the White House could take a resolution like naming a post office and amend it using reconciliation to enact massive tax cuts, new military programs or whatever.That is clearly not what reconciliation was intended for.

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  5. Um, no Wayne. You can only use reconciliation if “reconciliation language” is included in the annual budget resolution.

    What is destroying the Senate process is not reconciliation, it is the overuse of the filibuster. It used to be reserved for extraordinary circumstances, but has now become a general supermajority requirement, which makes no sense. You already have a ton of veto points in the system, and add a supermajority requirement in the one chamber where representation is most disconnected from population means that at any point in time legislators representing perhaps 35% of the country can block action on anything.

    Abuse of the filibuster will inevitably lead to its demise — whether through reconciliation or the nuclear option to amend Senate rules — because otherwise, you get complete paralysis.

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  6. Dave Schuler says:

    My concern isn’t that reconciliation will be used to pass healthcare reform. As has already been pointed out above, all that needs to happen to pass healthcare reform at this point is for the House to pass the Senate’s bill as-is. My concern is that reconciliation will be used to increase the costs of the Senate’s bill and strip the meager provisions for cost control AKA “bending the curve” from an already inadequate bill.

    A more serious question that those scoffing at the concerns about reconciliation need to address is are they advocating that the “public option” be enacted into law via reconciliation? I don’t see how that fits into the reconciliation process but I’ve read enough mau-mauing on the subject to believe that it needs to be taken seriously.

    I’ll also repeat here the point I’ve been making for some time: the original Social Security legislation, the amendment to the Social Security Act that created Medicare, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were all passed by majorities of both parties in both houses of Congress. I’m skeptical that enacting healthcare reform on a straight party line vote when public opinion on it is at best equivocal (my conclusion from the polls is that people are happy to get the benefits but unwilling to pay the costs) is good policy.

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  7. Alex Knapp says:

    Dave –

    I’ll also repeat here the point I’ve been making for some time: the original Social Security legislation, the amendment to the Social Security Act that created Medicare, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were all passed by majorities of both parties in both houses of Congress.

    All of these passed prior to the great, post-Nixon, regional re-alignment of the parties, which has seen the end of the traditional Southern Democrat (now they’re Republicans) and the Rockefeller Republican (they’re now Democrats.)

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  8. Dave Schuler says:

    All of these passed prior to the great, post-Nixon, regional re-alignment of the parties, which has seen the end of the traditional Southern Democrat (now they’re Republicans) and the Rockefeller Republican (they’re now Democrats.)

    Which means that it’s hard to do nowadays not that it’s smart to pass things by straight party votes.

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  9. PD Shaw says:

    The difference btw/ Medicare and HCR is one was popular and one was not:

    Bottom line: Although support for Medicare fluctuated, it appears to have engendered at least a plurality margin of approval in contemporaneous Gallup polls. Most current polls measuring new healthcare legislation find at least a plurality opposed.

    Gallup Report

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  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    Dave:

    You’ve been pushing for serious effort on HCR. I know that you don’t agree with the current proposals. But in more general terms isn’t it self-defeating to demand politicians make the hard decisions and yet insist that they bow to a committed partisan minority?

    Isn’t a melding of “hard decisions” and “broad consensus” nearly impossible to achieve?

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  11. James Joyner says:

    Um… Health care has already passed the Senate. If the House passes the same bill, it goes to the President for signature. Health care will have passed without reconciliation.

    Right. But that’s not gonna happen.

    Reconciliation would only be used to make some small changes at the margins, indeed on several revenue issues — excise tax rates, etc. But the core of HCR is going to pass without reconciliation under the current plan.

    and

    Except that the only portions of the Senate Health Care bill that are under consideration for reconciliation are…. the tax and budgetary provisions…

    This isn’t 1) a budget/tax bill and 2) the difference between the House and Senate versions are vast.

    These are completely different bills. Ordinarily, these things are ironed out in conference.

    What is destroying the Senate process is not reconciliation, it is the overuse of the filibuster. It used to be reserved for extraordinary circumstances, but has now become a general supermajority requirement, which makes no sense. You already have a ton of veto points in the system, and add a supermajority requirement in the one chamber where representation is most disconnected from population means that at any point in time legislators representing perhaps 35% of the country can block action on anything.

    I don’t disagree with you here. I just don’t think abusing one rule is legitimate because another is being abused. At very least, let’s not pretend that this is somehow “routine.”

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  12. Steve Plunk says:

    It’s almost funny that in all of this we sometimes forget the American people don’t want it. How’s that for representative democracy.

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  13. Andy says:

    Michael,

    I think your comment points to a more fundamental problem in our political system. Reconciliation and the filibuster are symptoms, IMO, of an increasingly polarized political establishment and the movement of the two major political parties toward their respective wings.

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  14. James:

    Unless you know something different, my understanding is that the current plan is for the House to vote on the Senate bill and pass it. HCR then goes to president for signature. Then house passes a bill of “fixes” that essentially all budget/tax issues, and it is this second budget/tax bill (aka sidecar reconciliation) that will be passed by reconciliation.

    There will be no conference and no effort to pass a single, comprehensive bill through reconciliation. Indeed, you couldn’t pass much of the HCR bill through reconciliation precisely because there are all sorts of non-budget elements in it.

    So, yes, reconciliation will be used only for budget/tax matters… as reconciliation is intended for.

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  15. Boyd says:

    Bernard, you’re much more confident than I am that a follow-up bill to “fix” the problems of the current bill could get passed, possibly by either house. And I think it’s that skepticism that could prevent the House from passing the Senate’s bill.

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  16. c-red says:

    A quick check at wikipedia shows the graph is incomplete – there are more instances of reconciliation being used

    Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1980, Pub.L. 96-499 (1980)
    Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1983, Pub.L. 98-270 (1984)
    Deficit Reduction Act of 1984 (DEFRA), Pub.L. 98-369 (1984)
    Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1989, Pub.L. 101-239 (1989)
    Balanced Budget Act of 1995, H.R. 2491 (vetoed December 6, 1995)
    Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, Pub.L. 105-34 (1997)
    Taxpayer Refund and Relief Act of 1999, H.R. 2488 (vetoed September 23, 1999)
    Marriage Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2000, H.R. 4810 (vetoed August 5, 2000)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reconciliation_(United_States_Congress)

    I don’t have the graph details (or the time to look them up) so I don’t if they would help refute or support the article

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  17. steve says:

    “Which means that it’s hard to do nowadays”

    Which makes it impossible to do nowadays I would say. TBF to Republicans, the politics of compromise does not play well for them.

    Were the large majority votes for reconciliation because of the old practice of passing two budgets per year or did reconciliation give people cover to vote in the affirmative?

    Steve

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  18. Wayne says:

    Re” Um, no Wayne. You can only use reconciliation if “reconciliation language” is included in the annual budget resolution” and “So, yes, reconciliation will be used only for budget/tax matters… as reconciliation is intended for.”

    I understand that is how it is suppose to work. That doesn’t mean that is how it will work. There is talk of having VP Biden overruling the rules committee ruling in order to do much more.

    As for the filibuster, I think it would be foolish to do away with it. I suspect if control was the other way many would have a change of heart. Frankly I think Washington does too much middling in our lives. The only part I would change is judicial and Presidential appointees. After a reasonable period of time such as six months, they should get an up and down vote.

    Legislation especially major ones should be able to be filibuster.

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  19. There is talk of having VP Biden overruling the rules committee ruling in order to do much more.

    Look, as I’ve said in about a dozen other threads… I can’t argue against people’s fears. I can only discuss what has actually happened, or what is actually being proposed.

    That’s the part of the debate on HCR that is so frustrating to me. Every time I want to talk about the bill itself, someone on the thread starts making some sort of slippery slope argument about what might happen in the future.

    If the Dems were really planning to abuse reconciliation rule, I would object to it. But the reality is that if you listen to Conrad and others talking about it, they’ve made quite clear that they are only thinking of using reconciliation on what have always been reconciliation matters — budget and taxing. I just see no evidence whatsoever that the Dems are actually thinking of any sort of “nuclear option” that would either abuse the reconciliation process or end the filibuster.

    So, yeah, I get it, people are scared. But ultimately, fear ought to be based on some sort of assessment of what is actually being discussed, rather than just an irrational fear of what might really be lurking deep in the hearts of Obama or Pelosi.

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  20. Grewgills says:

    The Republicans used it for two slam dunks, one vote that didn’t quite have a filibuster-proof margin, and one 51-50 vote in which VP Cheney had to break the tie.

    Between 2001 and 2005 it was used 4 times: once with 58 votes, once with 54, and twice with 51. Three of the four increased budget deficits and the other made policy changes to health care and student assistance.

    The argument that Republicans were more likely to use the process than Democrats is meaningless, simply reflecting the fact that Republicans have dominated the Senate over the period in question.

    Looking back at control of the Senate by party the 97th, 98th, 99th, 104th, 105th, 106th, 108th and 109th were controlled by Republicans. The others beginning with the 73rd in which the Reconciliation Act was passed through the current 11th were controlled by Democrats. So there were 36 years during which reconciliation could be used and Republicans controlled the Senate for 16 of those years. For some reason the 1980 use of reconciliation for the Omnibus budget bill did not make the above list and was passed by a Democratic Senate so add another one to the D tally, but they still come up short (9.5 to 6.5). That is roughly 4/7 of the available time and roughly 3/5 of the usage.

    This isn’t 1) a budget/tax bill

    The budget/tax bit feels like a bit like sleight of hand.

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  21. PD Shaw says:

    My understanding is that the reconciliation bill would have to address abortion to get the Stupak supporters, but abortion, being a non budget related issue can’t survive the Byrd rule. As I understand it, a previous abortion provision was eliminated from a reconciliation bill ten or so years ago.

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  22. Raoul says:

    JJ: Sometimes you allow your political beliefs to hide the truth. 1) Many if not most of those “budget” bills contained substantial matters out of budgeting (see COBRA)- I guess you would feel better if the health care reform was titled Health Care and Budget bill. In about thirty years, reconciliation has been used twenty times- twice every three years; considering the amount of obstructionism, I am surprised we are still close to average. And reconciliation has been used for health care several times in the past. At the end of the day, is seems you argue it is only OK to pass Republican party initiatives through reconciliation; but someone who would know, former Sen. Frist, said this type of bill is fine for the procedure (he changed his views later a few month later due to politics). At the end of the day, the Senate majority decides what’s OK for reconciliation, not me, not you, not any of us: THOSE ARE THE RULES. If one does like it, vote for a different senator.

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  23. Wayne says:

    Re” rather than just an irrational fear”
    It is only irrational if there is almost no chance that it might happen.

    Waiting on something to happen before you prepare for and\or condemn the notion of it is foolish. Let’s wait for war or a disaster to happen before we do anything. Let’s wait for corruption to happen before we set standards especially since we will know what side our guys fall on so we can adjust standards accordingly. It is simply ineffective and lame to do so.

    The Dems could put many of these concern to rest but refused to do so. Could it be simple political posturing to gain an advantage? Possibly or possibly not. If they are then they need to take the negatives as well as the positives in doing so.

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  24. The Dems could put many of these concern to rest but refused to do so. Could it be simple political posturing to gain an advantage?

    Yeah, and Obama could end the speculation by just releasing his “long form” birth certificate.

    Good grief, reconciliation needs to go through the Budget committee. Have you bothered to read Conrad’s statements on this? Because he’s been pretty damn clear about what he thinks you can do and can’t do through reconciliation.

    There is almost no chance that the Dems will try to blow up the filibuster altogether. NO prominent Democrat have even hinted at it. It is a pure fantasy concocted by fear-mongering GOP politicians and fueled by conspiracy theories in the usually right-wing echo chamber.

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  25. […] James Joyner: Reconciliation, health care and history […]

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  26. Grewgills says:

    In light of c-red’s observation I retabulated.

    Reconciliation has been used 23 times since it became an option in 1974. Its first use was in 1980 by Ds who have used it 6.5* times and the Rs used it 16.5 times making the ratio even more stilted. If we limit our time frame so that it begins with first usage rather than first potential usage Rs controlled the Senate 16 out of 30 years or slightly over 1/2 of the time and are responsible for better than 70% of the times reconciliation was used. If we strip out uses on omnibus budget bills (the original intended use) the ratio becomes 11.5 R to 1.5 D. That seems like a mighty steep ratio to me. Any reasonable breakdown shows Republicans to have used the process at a significantly higher rate and have used it outside its originally intended usage at a significantly higher rate. It seems rather obvious in light of this that the problem the Republican leadership has with the upcoming potential use has more to do with who is doing it than whether or not it is a proper use.

    * I count the 2001 use as 0.5 each because control of the Senate was split evenly, though Cheney was the tie breaker that did not come in to play.

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  27. Andy says:

    Considering the reconciliation bill hasn’t even been drafted yet, this discussion is academic at this point.

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  28. James,

    2) the difference between the House and Senate versions are vast.

    True–but unless I am radically misunderstanding the situation, the House version is dead. The only way this works, as Bernard notes above, is for the House to pass the Senate version and then have some other issues handled separately, with the Senate-side being done via reconciliation, and any of those matters would have to be budget/tax issues.

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  29. PD Shaw says:

    Steven Taylor, that’s my understanding as well. I don’t see how the House can trust the Senate to pass the entire reconciliation package when some of the components would be subject to parliamentarian rulings.

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  30. The Q says:

    Can we please destroy the bullshit myth promulgated by some on this board that parties are retreating to their ideological extremes, therefore making governing more difficult.

    This is horseshit. The Republicans are domestic terrorists who will stop at nothing to destroy any impediments to fettering the wealthy.

    They quite simply have lost their friggin’ minds and are hell bent on doing whatever it takes to cripple any Democratic president, or was anyone paying attention to the clinton obsession.

    Now its obama the socialist kenyan who hates whitey and America.

    Grow the f#$ck up conservatives.

    I leave with this challenge, can someone name me two programs in the last 30 years that a Republican conservative has proposed which will benefit the poor or lower middle classes without tying it to some policy which will overwhelmingly benefit the rich simultaneously?

    Please you defenders of the faith, please correct me…sort of like Nazis defending Hitler because the trains ran on time and he made a dent in unemployment.

    Please one friggin thing they’ve done???????

    The problem isn’t that the Dems are liberal. The wackos on the right are united. Witness the zero votes Clinton got on his 94 Omnibus budget act and the zero votes for HCR.

    But look at the Dems who voted for the bush tax cuts, Iraq etc and you will see none of the vaunted “liberal” hegemony over the Dem party, contrasted with the dictatorship of the Rush didiots of the right who control the party line…or didn’t anyone pay attention to the powerpoint presentation which laid bare their pathetic fear and smear strategies.

    I lived in a lily white area of LA in the 60s and 70s and the obtuse, racist thinking by most of those in my neighborhood when Tom Bradley ran is alive and still well in the disease which is called the Republican party.

    If they had held sway in this country during the 60s and 70s, we would be finished as a country by now.

    The backwards, insane ramblings written here defending a bankrupt ideology is laughable.

    The Republicans had 12 years to come up with a health care solution which saw premiums rise 120%.

    What was there solution? Please tell me.

    Oh, yeah, let the wonderful “free market” work its wonders to solve the problem.

    Well, it didn’t work and now whats their solution?

    More of the same.

    I am sorry for the cursing, but far worse will befall our society (witness IRS plane and pentagon attack) if the infantile right keeps their inexcusable behaviour going.

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  31. Wayne says:

    Re “NO prominent Democrat have even hinted at it”

    Really? What do you call it when the President, his spokesmen, Reid and other Democrat senators are ask directly about the use of reconciliation, nuclear option or changing the rules to a simple 50 plus one and instead of saying “it is out of the question” they say stuff like “something needs to be done”, “all options are on the table”, and “we must pass it at all cost”? I would say that is more than hinting. I would say at a minimum it is a threat.

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  32. Wayne says:

    Q
    I was tempted to go down your list including asking when the Republicans had 12 years of anything close to a super majority in the senate or even 12 years of control of the Presidency and both house. However it would obviously be a waste of time. Besides your own post pretty much destroys your own arguments.

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  33. Michael Reynolds says:

    Q may have been a little overwrought, but his question remains:

    I leave with this challenge, can someone name me two programs in the last 30 years that a Republican conservative has proposed which will benefit the poor or lower middle classes without tying it to some policy which will overwhelmingly benefit the rich simultaneously

    Still a pretty good question. Anyone have an answer?

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  34. James Joyner says:

    can someone name me two programs in the last 30 years that a Republican conservative has proposed which will benefit the poor or lower middle classes without tying it to some policy which will overwhelmingly benefit the rich simultaneously

    No Child Left Behind – Rich people send their kids to private school. This is for others.

    Medicare Plus – Rich people can afford their own damned drugs.

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  35. Michael Reynolds says:

    James:

    Setting aside problems I have with both programs, I think that was a fair answer.

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  36. Raoul says:

    Pretty weak brew there: NCLB- essentially an unfunded mandate that makes states pay for exams run by rich people. Medicare+: they may get their own medications but as far as I know the plan is not means tested.

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  37. Perhaps Q is correct about the infantile right. Unfortunately his solution is to let the infantile left take over.

    James, does that mean that George Bush was a conservative?

    What about defense of free markets and free trade? I’m sure that Q doesn’t think those things benefit anyone but the rich, but more sensible people should know better.

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  38. James Joyner says:

    Pretty weak brew there: NCLB- essentially an unfunded mandate that makes states pay for exams run by rich people.

    That’s pretty silly. The point isn’t to enrich testing services but to improve public schools. I’m not crazy about the methods — and not even sure I buy the need for the Feds to be that heavily involved — but the motive is certainly to improve education for those further down the ladder.

    Medicare+: they may get their own medications but as far as I know the plan is not means tested.

    It should be. But then we’d have to admit that it’s a welfare program rather than an insurance program.

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  39. Funny how everyone wants to ignore the fact that the sponsor of NCLB in the Senate was Senator Edward Kennedy.

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  40. The Q says:

    Mr. Austin,

    I believe in free trade and free markets. In fact the free market works beautifully in the U.S. about 80% of the time.

    I don’t think we have congressional hearings and tea party angst over toilet paper, chicken, dog food, soft drinks, shovels, hardware, computers, entertainment, cable TV, travel etc.

    The overwhelming majority of our consumer choices via the market are efficient and needn’t be addressed, …in short, the invisible hand at work
    to maximize utility.

    However, when I was a kid, I remember reading about the New Deal and the rural electrification program and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

    I was amazed to learn that a huge swath of that part of the country did not have electricity and it took that stupid cripple FDR to figure out a way to give it to them.

    My thought was why did the government have to step in? Why wasn’t the private sector already furnishing this service?

    Perhaps the private sector determined the cost to go to these remote areas wasn’t profitable etc. bla bla.

    So, whats the friggin’ solution? To let the free market hold sway no matter what, or let common sense prevail and “socialize” the cost of a public good which, while not profitable, is humanely and civilly the right thing to do.

    Or, to use Hardin’s tragedy of the commons in an economic context:

    Lets say 10 shepherds each have 10 sheep and they all share a common grazing area.

    They each independently, following their own rational self interest, decide simultaneously, that adding one more sheep to their respective flock will increase utility. They each add the additional sheep, but collectively their independent decisions cause the common to be overgrazed and all the sheep die and the shepherds starve.

    So while each followed their own rational SELF interest, the collective affect was disastrous.

    A mechanism which is outside the narrow self interest of individuals must surely be created to insure that there be some protection of the public good which trumps individual selfishness, no?

    Similarly, go back and read the debates from 150 years ago regarding the need to put kids in school for 12 years via free public education.

    Remember, back then, the country was 80% rural and the need for child labor on the farms was essential. The economic consequences of disrupting this labor was serious.

    But visionaries of the day insisted that after a generation had gone to school to get some learnin’ the collective utility of the country would benefit from a more educated workforce, that instead of reliance on family farming, the increased ability of the labor force to engage in more sophisticated economic activity would result in far greater productivity and advancement.

    Of course the liberals who pushed this were proven correct and typically the conservative position concerned only with short term economic dislocation were proved wrong (as usually is the case with conservative philosophy).

    Hence my loathing and unabashed dismissal of most conservative thinking.

    Conservatives vapid slavishness to policies of failure and divisiveness have marked the last 30 years of public discourse.

    Lets see, did it really take a genius to figure out that the Gramm Leach Bliley Act would cause financial disaster since it overturned Glass Steagall which was implemented after the Pecora hearings which were convened to make sure that the disaster of the Great Depression would never be repeated?

    Only for it to nearly be repeated again because of reactionary right wing adherence to flawed policy of the 80s, 90s and 00s?

    I mean how many more rounds of tax cuts to the top 1% which caused huge deficits do you need to see before you fess up to the insanity of repeating these tired old nostrums over and over again (make no mistake this WILL be a central Republican plank in the 2010 midterms – tax cuts to the moronic upper class and getting rid of the “death” tax which affects 1 in 200 taxpayers.)

    But you zealots of the right with the fever of “free markets” just can’t let it go.

    And how James, Wayne, Charles do you folk define “Free Market”…is it atomistic competition with low barriers to entry, where the absence of one buyer or seller does not affect market price and anti trust laws are vigorously enforced?

    What possible relation does our modern economy have to this classical definition of Free Market?

    In a word, conservatives have foisted upon the body politic since the times of the flawed Reagan, policy disaster after policy disaster..Iraq, Afghanistan, torture, de-regulation, huge deficits, bi polar wealth distribution, environmental negligence etc.

    The hard work and seed corn of generations of past Americans have been wasted by the infantile, fear mongers of the right who are unable to engage in tough, serious debate..instead,we get the marxist kenyan anti american negro screed which dominates the wingnut blogosphere…the inane and simplistic whining of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman.

    As a teenager, walking thru the showers at Dachau, I wondered how did the Germans ever get to this point.

    As an older man, I see it so clearly…it is happening here in my country….people turning off their brains and falling prey to the false shibboleths of the Glenn Becks and Dick Cheneys.

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  41. c-red says:

    I seem to remember that NCLB has a tendency to defund underperforming schools (aka poorer school districts) but I would give you this one.

    Medicare Plan D was basically a way for the pharma companies to charge full price for drugs for Medicare patients rather than let Medicare set the rates, so, yes, this could be seen as a massive giveaway to the rich at the expense of taxpayers. (I will entirely leave alone whether medicare should should be able to price fix or not, I have mixed feelings on that.)

    I’m generally pretty vocal about my disdain for the current Republican philosophies towards government, but they have (in the past) had some decent ideas. I just wish the current Republican Party would stop playing politics with everything and get serious about governing.

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  42. Q, I find it humorous that you say you believe in free markets in your first sentence and then ramble semi-coherently about opposing them for another four pages or so. Whatever.

    I guess you’re big into omelette making. You like the good parts about TVA, but seem to ignore the people that were thrown off their land to make it happen. Hey, it’s all for the greater good though, right? But why do you call FDR a stupid cripple? And don’t pretend that you have the right to put those words in my mouth.

    Perhaps you can give us a history lesson on the rise of National Capitalism and how it led to Dachau. No? Oh that’s right, because it was National Socialism that led to Dachau. Read Hayek and if you understand it then perhaps we can talk again.

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  43. Alex Knapp says:

    Perhaps you can give us a history lesson on the rise of National Capitalism and how it led to Dachau. No? Oh that’s right, because it was National Socialism that led to Dachau.

    I suppose by that logic, East Germany wasn’t Communist because it was called the Democratic Republic of Germany.

    The argument that National Socialism was, in fact, socialist is contradicted by its actual essentials. The economics of Nazism were more akin to corporatism. The Nazis allowed existing corportations to exist and gave them tax breaks and subsidies while clamping down on small business.

    Read Hayek and if you understand it then perhaps we can talk again.

    Hayek blamed the Holocaust on the fact that the Weimar Republic allowed an increase in immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe, and claimed that resentment over those immigrants’ “inability to assimilate” is what drove the Holocaust. So, you know, I might take Hayek’s analysis with a grain of salt or two.

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  44. The Q says:

    Mr. Austin,

    I don’t think you are reading me correctly, instead, like most right wing dogmatists you insist on putting my positions into a little box that you can then shoot at.

    Please define for me a “Free Market”?

    I oppose the dilution of the putative free market by distortions caused by massive economic hegemony of the elite classes and mega business which skews policy by intervening in the political decision making process in which “we the people” engage, so as to “promote the general welfare” and “establish justice”. the attempt to Ram through a repeal of the death tax which last year alone raised $20 billion from just 1800 returns is just an example of right wing insanity which grips the modern greedy conservative base, or haven”t you read your J.S. Mill lately?

    I was uprooted from my home so the north runway at LAX could be built…personal sorrow for me, but an essential public good which bolstered tourism, created jobs, increased trade etc.

    I don’t support mindless gov’t intrusion (i.e. patriot act, Kelo vs. New London, pot laws etc.)
    but when a dysfunctional market breaks down, then we obviously must interfere in its flawed performance, or are you against child labor prohibitions, meat inspectors, NHTSB…all infringements of the “free market”.

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  45. Almost every act passed under reconciliation (8/15) has in fact been a budget bill.

    You lost me on this line, James. I was thinking of ways to rephrase it, and came up with:

    – Almost every game pitched by Zambrano (8/15) has in fact been a win.

    – Almost every number from 1 to 15 (8/15) is in fact an odd number.

    – Almost every majoritarian unit in an evenly divided group of 15 binary units (8/15) has in fact been said majoritarian denomination.

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  46. James Joyner says:

    You lost me on this line, James.

    Poor phrasing, I’ll agree. Rather than “Almost every act passed under reconciliation (8/15) has in fact been a budget bill. And most of those that weren’t (5/7) were tax bills” it would have been better to say “Virtually every act passed under reconciliation (13/15) has been a budget or tax bill, with 8 of the former and 5 of the latter.”

    I’ll chalk it up to some combination of the earliest uses being almost exclusively budget acts and a lack of sleep.

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  47. Of those 7 cases, all were budget or tax measures. So, using reconciliation to avoid a supermajority on health care reform would simply be unprecedented.

    Unprecedented except for 2005 Deficit Reduction Act which “Reduced Medicare and Medicaid spending”, the 1993 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act which “repealed the cap on Medicare taxes”, the 1990 Omnibus Budget Reconcilliation Act which “made major changes to Medicare and Medicaid” and the 1982 Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act which “opened Medicare to H.M.O.’s”.

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  48. James Joyner says:

    Unprecedented except for 2005 Deficit Reduction Act which “Reduced Medicare and Medicaid spending”, the 1993 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act which “repealed the cap on Medicare taxes”, the 1990 Omnibus Budget Reconcilliation Act which “made major changes to Medicare and Medicaid” and the 1982 Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act which “opened Medicare to H.M.O.’s”.

    But how was reconciliation used in those cases? Did the House and Senate differ substantially on those issues? Or did the reconciliation merely change some language about financing the changes?

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  49. But how was reconciliation used in those cases?

    It was used to pass bills through the Senate – with less than 60 votes for. I’m taking that as your definition of “using a super-majority to avoid reconcilliation” – and in four of the seven cases the legislation had at least something to do with health care.

    You said that “using reconciliation to avoid a supermajority on health care reform would simply be unprecedented”. Perhaps you have a different definition of “unprecedented”. Or perhaps you believe that there are some extenuating circumstances in those four cases (which you haven’t presented) that invalidate them. In that case, I’m disputing your definition of the word “simply”.

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  50. James Joyner says:

    Perhaps you have a different definition of “unprecedented”. Or perhaps you believe that there are some extenuating circumstances in those four cases (which you haven’t presented) that invalidate them. In that case, I’m disputing your definition of the word “simply”.

    All three of the examples you cite are budget and tax bills. Because of their omnibus nature, they also contained provisions related to health care. The bill now in question is a pure health care policy bill.

    If you’ve got evidence that the reason reconciliation was used in your three examples was to get the health care provisions passed and avoid giving the Senate the ability to filibuster, I’d like to hear it.

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  51. If you’ve got evidence that the reason reconciliation was used in your three examples was to get the health care provisions passed and avoid giving the Senate the ability to filibuster, I’d like to hear it.

    I don’t. You don’t have evidence the other way either – or if you do you didn’t present it. I cited four bills that based on the graphic you’ve posted, are at odds with your conclusion.

    HOWEVER, it is very likely that at least some of the health care related provisions in those pieces of legislation were introduced as amendments. Amendments which would have been exempt from filibuster under reconcilliation.

    I’m not going to wade through Congressional records in order to prove that point – and I seriously doubt that you’re going to either in an attempt to prove me wrong. Because you know that my contention is most likely true.

    Regardless, you have to concede that that is more than enough “reasonable doubt” to call into question the phrase “simply be unprecedented”.

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  52. Incidentally, just to further complicate things – the graphic deals only with “15 major reconciliation bills” and does not purport to be a comprehensive listing. For example, H.R.2488 which, amongst other things provides “incentives for education savings and health care, and for other purposes” and had its Conference Report passed in the Senate 50-49 didn’t get counted since it was vetoed.

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  53. Reginald Perrin says:

    “The Republicans used it for two slam dunks, one vote that didn’t quite have a filibuster-proof margin, and one 51-50 vote in which VP Cheney had to break the tie.”

    How is a 50-50 vote, where Cheney had to break the tie, a “slam dunk”?

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  54. @Reginald Perrin,

    I believe James Joyner is referring to four separate pieces of legislation in that sentence – 2 that are “slam dunks”, and two that are not. Although, the phrase “slam-dunk” was a poor choice given its unfortunate connotations with respect to Republican administrations.

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  55. TedCollins says:

    8/15 = 53%

    Roughly half is not really “almost every act.”

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  56. Thanks for answering my question earlier. Even though I still think you are wrong, it’s always nice when the proprietor of the blog interacts with his comment thread.

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  57. Zorro for the Common Good says:

    Why are we spending so much time splitting hairs about whether reconciliation is “unprecedented”? First of all, there is a difference between “unprecedented” and “changing the rules”. I don’t support Dems bending existing Senate rules to get the bill passed, but I am aware of no proposals that would do so.

    So then the question becomes whether it’s wrong for Democrats to take unprecedented actions that are still within the rules. I suppose one could make the case that such actions are still wrong if they trash established norms. However, that ignores the big honking (literal) elephant in the room: the Democrats’ unprecedented actions are a direct response to the Republicans’ unprecedented actions. Until this Congress, the Senate has never before been subjected to a routine supermajority requirement for all legislation. Should we really be surprised that Dems would respond to the situation by doing what they could to get around the filibuster?

    (Similarly, Republicans announced their plans to try to kill the reconciliation bill via dilatory amendments, then pre-emptively complained that if Democrats ruled that such amendments were, in fact, dilatory, that would somehow destroy the Senate. That, my friends, is some serious chutzpah.)

    But what bothers me the most about all of these process arguments is that they’re simply disingenuous. People are seizing on irrelevant details to try to defeat a bill they oppose on substantive grounds. (Is it any surprise that the volume of such complaints seems to rise the closer Democrats get to passing the bill?) If reform passes, it will be because Democrats took advantage of the large majorities they won in ’06 and ’08 and passed a bill, and overcame a last-minute speed bump with a few parliamentary maneuvers that were well within the established rules. If Republicans didn’t want health care reform to pass, they should have done a better job in the past two election cycles.

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