Today, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) appeared on ABC’s This Week to discuss last week’s bipartisan health care reform summit. During the summit, Alexander urged the President and Congressional Democrats to “renounce” the idea of using budget reconciliation to pass health care reform. Alexender went even further today, saying that the use of reconciliation would be “the end of the Senate“:
The reconciliation procedure is a little-used legislative procedure — 19 times, it’s been used. It’s for the purpose of taxing, spending, and reducing deficits. But the difference here is, that there’s never been anything of this size and magnitude and complexity run through the Senate in this way. There are a lot of technical problems with it, which we could discuss. It would turn the Senate, it would really be the end of the Senate as a protector of minority rights, the place where you have to get consensus, instead of just a partisan majority.
If using reconciliation were really “the end of the Senate,” the Senate would have died a long time ago, and Lamar Alexander would have been complicit in its death.
Reconciliation has been used to pass at least 19 bills, including major pieces of health care reform legislation like the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Medicare Advantage Program. Fourteen of the times reconciliation was employed it was used to advance Republican interests.
Furthermore, Alexander himself has personally voted for reconciliation at least four times, as Igor Volsky pointed out:
— 2003 Bush Tax Cuts: The Congressional Budget office, Bush’s tax cuts for the rich increased budget deficits by $60 billion in 2003 and by $340 billion by 2008. The bill had a cost of about a trillion dollars. [Alexander voted yes.]
— 2005 Deficit Reduction Act of 2005: The bill cut approximately $4.8 billion over five years and $26.1 billion over the next ten years from Medicaid spending. [Alexander voted yes.]
— 2005 Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005: The bill extended tax cuts on capital gains and dividends and the alternative minimum tax. [Alexander voted yes.]
— 2007 College Cost Reduction and Access Act: The bill forgave all remaining student loan debt after 10 years of public service. [Alexander voted yes]
In the end, Alexander’s mere presence on television this morning seems to indicate that using reconciliation does not, in fact, end the Senate.