Last spring, Senate Democrats utilized what is known as the budget reconciliation process to pass a “fix” to the Senate’s health care bill, adjusting certain elements of it to make it more palatable to House Democrats. The process, which was used by the Republicans to pass tax cuts for the wealthy, had a long history of use in the Senate and fell within the standard rules.
Yet Republicans cried foul, claiming that the use of the reconciliation process was undermining our very democratic system itself. One of the Republicans who objected to the use of reconciliation was Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). As Democrats prepared to use the process to amend the Senate’s health care bill, the “Young Gun” Republican blasted the process in statements and op-eds:
— Ryan called the reconciliation process a “convoluted legislative charade” and the result of Democrats “employing any means to achieve political victory” in an op-ed in the Washington Post. [3/14/10]
— The congressman referred to using reconciliation for the legislative fix to the bill as “an extraordinary and unprecedented abuse” of the reconciliation process during a debate on the House Budget Committee. “Never before has the House committee process been so grossly exploited,” he said. [3/15/10]
— In testimony before the House Rules Committee, Ryan complained of using the budget reconciliation process, “This is not good democracy. This is not good government.” He claimed his Democratic colleagues in the Senate didn’t have “the courage to have a clean up or down vote in the people’s house.” [3/20/10]
Yet during an appearance on CNBC yesterday, Ryan was singing a very different tune about the reconciliation process. Host Larry Kudlow asked Ryan, who is slated to be chairman of the House Budget Committee if the Republicans win the House, if he would be willing to use the reconciliation process to “chip away and gradually roll back some of the unpopular Obama policies” in the event of a GOP takeover. Ryan responded that not only does he “want” to use the tactic to do that, but that Republicans “have to use reconciliation” to reverse Obama’s policies:
KUDLOW: Congressman, I know you’re going to be chairman of the Budget Committee if the GOP Controls the house. That puts you in charge of the reconciliation process which is a very important task. Can you use reconciliation to chip away and gradually roll back some of the unpopular Obama policies?
RYAN: Yes you can. It’s then a question of where Judd [Gregg] works and where he sits. The question is who controls the senate and where are the votes in the senate? Reconciliation is the fastest best path to get there. We do want to use reconciliation, you ultimately have to use reconciliation to get there.
It appears that Ryan’s view is that when Democrats want to use the reconciliation process to tweak their health care bill, it is an affront to democracy. But when Republicans want to “roll back” policies passed by their Democratic colleagues, then it’s completely fine to use the procedure.