During an appearance on conservative talker Steve Malzberg’s radio show yesterday, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist continued his effort to walk back his claim that if he were still in the Senate, he “would end up voting” for President Obama’s health care reform.
Malzberg asked Frist whether Democrats would “ram this through using reconciliation.” After reiterating his belief that it would be “legal” for the legislation to be passed that way, Frist argued against using the process because it would further the divide in Congress. Frist acknowledged, however, that he had used it during the Bush years:
FRIST: Six years ago, six years ago — so what is this reconciliation? Well, you’ve used it, Frist, before…I’ve used reconciliation. … It’s budgetary stuff. And so I did use it for tax cuts and all. For substantive policy issues, it is never used. It is never used because it means basically we’re going to exclude half the American people.
Despite Frist’s acknowledgment that he used reconciliation for the Bush tax cuts, Malzberg sat silently an hour later on his show as Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) told him that if Democrats passed clean energy legislation similar to the Waxman-Markey bill through reconciliation, it “would be the first time on a major tax bill that that’s been done in our nation’s history”:
MALZBERG: Could they do reconciliation on this like they’re going to do with health care?
INHOFE: Well, they’re, I think they’re going to have a hard time doing reconciliation because that would be the first time on a major tax bill that that’s been done in our nation’s history. And I don’t think that Harry Reid really wants to do that. Yes he, they talk about it. I think that’s a threat.
MALZBERG: You mean for health care or for this bill?
INHOFE: I’m talking about this bill.
As ThinkProgress has previously noted, Republicans claiming that the use of reconciliation for health care reform would be unprecedented “seem to be experiencing a particular form of political amnesia.” Indeed, as congressional scholars Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann have pointed out, historically “many of the reconciliation bills made major changes in policy. Health insurance portability (COBRA), nursing home standards, expanded Medicaid eligibility, increases in the earned income tax credit, welfare reform, the state Children’s Health Insurance Program, major tax cuts and student aid reform were all enacted under reconciliation procedures.”