Republicans are Disingenuous on Reconciliation, Health Reform

A bitter pill? Yes. But voters will decide between the Party of Grandiose Dreams and the Party of No.

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By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Sen. Orrin Hatch published a highly misleading op-ed piece in today’s Washington Post, in which he parrots the current Republican talking point that the Democrats are about to “abuse” the Senate’s rules and “stifle” dissent and “badly undermine” the Constitution to “ram through the Senate a multitrillion-dollar healthcare bill.” The Democrats, of course, are doing no such thing. I don’t know where Hatch was, but most of the country saw the Democrats ram the healthcare bill, fair and square, through the Senate in December.

Hey, Orrin. The deed has been done. The Senate has acted. The Democrats got their 60 votes; shut down your filibuster, and pass the bill.

The Constitution, last I checked, has not been undermined. And if GOP Sen. Jim Bunning’s sorry ravings on the Senate floor are any indication, dissent is far from stifled. The precious right of U.S. senators to make asses of themselves remains obviously intact.

The Democratic leaders of the House are now deciding whether they should pass the Senate version of the legislation, and send it to the White House to be signed into law.

To secure enough votes, the House leaders may insist that some of the cruder parts of the law--like the deal that Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska cut to absolve his state of higher Medicaid payments--will be fixed in a separate piece of legislation. One might think that Republicans would not object to such fixes. After all, they have been screaming for two months about the Nelson clause, and similar bits of legislative horse-trading.

But, just to be total pains in the neck, the Republicans now threaten to filibuster the fixes. And, to exert their right as a majority within the Senate rules, the Democrats are thinking about using an obscure tactic, called reconciliation, to get the fixes passed.

Reconciliation, of course, has been embraced and employed more by Republican senators than Democrats in the past. It was used, among other things, to pass the big Bush tax cuts and other major pieces of legislation. In fact, depending on what is in it, a fix-it bill might well qualify as the most insignificant legislation ever passed via the reconciliation rule.

But that won’t stop senators like Hatch from ranting, tiresomely and disingenuously, that somehow this tactic “degrades democracy.”

I feel no sorrow for the Republicans. They so screwed up the country during the Bush years that the voters kicked them out of office, in droves, in 2006 and 2008, and left Congress and the White House in Democratic hands.

The Republicans should accept this fact, take their argument to the country in the fall, and let the voters decide which they prefer: the Party of Grandiose Dreams, or the Party of No. In the meantime, it’s Hatch and his cohorts who are degrading democracy, with tactics like today’s op-ed.

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