House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) have written a letter to President Obama asking him to abandon the current health care reform bills and eliminate “the possibility of reconciliation” before convening his February 25th health summit:
If the starting point for this meeting is the job-killing bills the American people have already soundly rejected, Republicans would rightly be reluctant to participate. Assuming the President is sincere about moving forward in a bipartisan way, does that mean he has taken off the table the idea of relying solely on Democratic votes and jamming through health care reform by way of reconciliation?
Given the GOP’s reluctance to negotiate on health care reform and the Democrats’ repeated overtures at bipartisanship, Obama shouldn’t abandon a legislative tactic that subjects legislation to a simple majority vote. After all, reconciliation was designed to help bring spending and revenues in line with the fiscal policy and lower the deficit — which health reform would undoubtedly accomplish.
The GOP has repeatedly used the reconciliation process to enact its agenda. In 2001 and 2003, Republicans broke with tradition and used the reconciliation to “enact a large tax cut that greatly increased federal deficits and debt.” During the 1990s, Republicans pushed through key provisions of their signature legislative agenda, the Contract with America, using budget reconciliation.
As rising GOP star Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) pointed out in April, Democrats have the “right” to pass health care reform through the reconciliation process. “It is their right. It is what they can do,” Ryan admitted. In June, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) said of the reconciliation process, “But it’s legal, it’s ethical, you can do it. And it has been suggested and accepted by the administration, pretty directly that if it came down to it, they’re going to drive this thing through a fifty-vote door. ”
Robert Gibbs has responded to the GOP letter. Without directly addressing their concerns, Gibbs reiterated the President’s commitment to health care reform:
He’s open to including any good ideas that stand up to objective scrutiny. What he will not do, however, is walk away from reform and the millions of American families and small business counting on it.