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Santorum Ties Himself Into Knots Justifying Congress’ Use Of Reconciliation During The Bush Years

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"Santorum Ties Himself Into Knots Justifying Congress’ Use Of Reconciliation During The Bush Years"

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AP061102013887444 On an RNC conference call today, Politico’s Ben Smith asked former Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum why he believes it would be an “abomination” for Congress to use the budget reconciliation process — which requires 51 instead of 60 votes — to pass health care reform, considering that the Republican Congress also used it to pass bills, such as President Bush’s tax cuts.

Santorum tried to name every way he could think of that might justify his position, including: 1) unlike health care, a tax bill is a “revenue bill” and “affects the budget,” 2) health care is “major policy initiative,” and 3) the reconciliation process will make a “huge and complex” bill even “more complex.”

When Smith pointed out that Republicans used the reconciliation process to push through drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — which is also arguably a major policy initiative that isn’t just a revenue bill — Santorum tried to argue that it wasn’t AS major, so it was acceptable:

SANTORUM: Well, again, you’re talking about a situation where, again, the biggest thing about drilling is certainly it has an impact on a small chunk of land in northern Alaska, and it has an impact on the federal revenue, but it’s not a particularly complex thing. You’re talking about drilling holes, as opposed to rejiggering and rewriting and reconstructing the entire health care system of this country. And the impact on the 350 million Americans for drilling a few holes in Alaska is fairly minor, as far as how it affects their daily lives. As opposed to — and by the way, it’s fairly minor on the economy, certainly in the short term, a little more in the long term. But again, nothing compared to what we’re talking about here with health care.

Listen here:

That’s not what Santorum argued at the time. In 2006, he wrote that Arctic drilling “has the potential to play a significant role in reducing our dependence on foreign oil.” Cantor also admitted that tax cuts would have more than a “minor” effect on the economy, saying in 2001, “There is nothing better that we can do for long term growth of our economy to lower these oppressive tax rates we have in place right now.” Basically, reconciliation is okay for any bill EXCEPT for Obama’s health care legislation — which is both too big and too small.

Congress has used reconciliation nearly 20 times since 1980 for everything from the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to student aid efforts, to expanding Medicaid eligibility. In 1995, Santorum was the GOP’s point person to push welfare reform through the budget reconciliation process. “This is a bill the president has absolutely no reason not to sign,” argued Santorum. He is also in no place to be lecturing Democrats on the proper use of reconciliation, considering that under Bush, Republicans fired two successive Senate parliamentarians who disagreed with what they were doing.

Transcript:

SANTORUM: You know, a tax bill, by definition, is a revenue bill; it affects the budget, and that’s what reconciliation was for. It was for doing things that have an impact on the balance sheet of the federal government. And health care reform — while certainly an aspect of health care reform will have that — this is a major policy initiative in an area that goes beyond the federal government’s balance sheet, and that to me, makes it an abomination that they would try to write a bill.

In my opinion, what makes it an abomination is because you have to write every provision of the bill score, otherwise it’s subject to the Byrd rule — those of you who hang around Washington know what that’s all about. And so you have to — as we — it’s a difficult thing to do, even with a tax bill. Imagine if you have to do with the government option or whole bunch of other things. You’re going to have to create very Rube-Goldberg kind of language that will make it — a bill that’s already going to be huge and complex — more complex because it has to get through the trip wire of the Byrd rule.

I just think that it’s taken an already difficult and overwhelming task of trying to rejigger the entire health care system of this country and now having to do it with the idea of every provision of the bill has to have some impact on the federal government. I just think makes it a wholly unworthy thing to try to accomplish.

SMITH: And reconciliation during the Bush years was also used for drilling in ANWR. Does that not have some of the same problems?

SANTORUM: Well, again, you’re talking about a situation where, again, the biggest thing about drilling is certainly it has an impact on a small chunk of land in northern Alaska, and it has an impact on the federal revenue, but it’s not a particularly complex thing. You’re talking about drilling holes, as opposed to rejiggering and rewriting and reconstructing the entire health care system of this country. And the impact on the 350 million Americans for drilling a few holes in Alaska is fairly minor, as far as how it affects their daily lives. As opposed to — and by the way, it’s fairly minor on the economy, certainly in the short term, a little more in the long term. But again, nothing compared to what we’re talking about here with health care.

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