In his New York Times column today, David Brooks complains that the use of the budget reconciliation process to finish health care reform with a “simple majority” vote will ruin “the remnants of person-to-person relationships” that are left in the Senate. Though he acknowledges that reconciliation has been used plenty in the past, Brooks asserts that the Democrats would be using it in an unprecedented manner:
But power trumps principle. In nearly every arena of political life, group relationships have replaced person-to-person relationships. The tempo of the Senate is now set by partisan lunches every Tuesday, whereas the body almost never meets for conversation as a whole. The Senate is now in the process of using reconciliation — rule by simple majority — to try to pass health care.
Reconciliation has been used with increasing frequency. That was bad enough. But at least for the Bush tax cuts or the prescription drug bill, there was significant bipartisan support. Now we have pure reconciliation mixed with pure partisanship.
Not only is Brooks “crying in his soup,” but he has his facts wrong. As the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein points out, the highest frequency of reconciliation use “was in the ’80s, not the Aughts.” The 2003 Bush tax cuts were passed on an almost strictly partisan 50-50 vote that required then-Vice President Dick Cheney to break the tie, and the Medicare prescription drug benefit wasn’t passed using reconciliation. Klein concludes that “Brooks isn’t wrong in the sense that ‘I disagree with him.’ He’s wrong in the sense that the column requires a correction.”