After describing the Senate’s reconciliation process as a “parliamentary trick” in a September 2009 WSJ editorial and criticizing Democrats for seeking to pass health reform with just 51 votes, Karl Rove has a new WSJ piece advising Republicans in the Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act with a simple majority. Democrats deployed the technique last year to pass part of the ACA, and were harshly criticized by Republicans for skirting the traditions of the Senate and ramming through reform that would effect 1/6th of the American economy. During the bipartisan health care reform summit at the White House in February of 2010, Republicans pressed President Obama to abandon the effort:
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN): “Renounce this idea of going back to the Congress of jamming through on a partisan vote through a little used process we call reconciliation, your version of the bill. … It has never been used for something like this. It is not appropriate to use to write the rules for 17 percent of the economy.”
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: (R-KY): “We know from a USA Today/Gallup Poll out this morning, they’re opposed to using the reconciliation device, the short-circuit approach that Lamar referred to that would end up with only bipartisan opposition by 52-39.”
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): “If a 51-vote reconciliation is enacted on 1/6 of our gross national product, never before has there been, there have been reconciliation, but not at the level of an issue of this magnitude. I think it could harm the future of our country and of our institution, which I love a great deal.
Republican attempts to use reconciliation will likely fail, since Republicans were unable to muster 51 votes to repeal the measure in the Senate last week. The measure fell along party lines, with all 51 Democrats voting against repeal and 47 Republicans backing it.
Brian Beutler notes that Republicans wouldn’t be able to repeal the entire law through reconciliation because the rules governing reconciliation “hold that any legislation that avoids the filibuster must directly effect revenues and spending, and must lower the deficit.” “To use it honestly, Republicans would have to exempt some of the good stuff — the pre-existing conditions discrimination ban would still exist — but mostly they’d have to repeal spending measures: the politically popular stuff.”