Fact Checking Orrin Hatch’s Reconciliation Revisionism

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has penned a fairly disingenuous editorial in today’s Washington Post, attacking Democrats for considering the reconciliation process to pass health care reform. “This use of reconciliation to jam through this legislation, against the will of the American people, would be unprecedented in scope,” Hatch claims:

Reconciliation was designed to balance the federal budget. Both parties have used the process, but only when the bills in question stuck close to dealing with the budget. In instances in which other substantive legislation was included, the legislation had significant bipartisan support.

Hatch argues against a straw man. As Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) — who Hatch quotes as an opponent of reconciliation — explained this morning on MSNBC, Democrats are planning to use reconciliation on a smaller package of changes that effect the budget, not the entirety of reform, as Hatch suggests.

“On Christmas Eve, the Senate passed, without using reconciliation, by a super majority, 60 votes, fundamental health care reform.” “That package, as I said, now goes to the House. If the House passes it, goes to the President for signature, without reconciliation ever having been used. Now, again, the House could then pass a package to improve the health care reform with matters that are only budget related. That was the whole intention of reconciliation, that it only be used for budget-related matters and that would be absolutely consistent with how reconciliation has been done, by both Republicans and Democrats.”


Hatch’s claim that “substantive” reconciliation legislation had “significant bipartisan support” is also wrong. Some reconciliation packages did attract bipartisan support, but lawmakers have used reconciliation precisely because their bills could not attract 60 votes. Hatch has voted for 12 of the last 14 reconciliation bills since 1989, including President Bush’s non-partisan budget busting tax cuts (those effected 100% of the economy and cost $1.8 trillion). (Hatch’s votes are designated with a *.) Check out this table compiled by DC Progressive’s Emma Sandoe:

Vote CountBipartisan support?

College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007*

79–12–9Yes, although all 12 voting against it were RepublicansTax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005*54–44–23 Democrats (Nelson (D-NE), Nelson (D-FL), Pryor (D-AR)) voted for itDeficit Reduction Act of 2005*52–472 Democrats (Landrieu (D-LA) and Nelson (D-NE))Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003*50–502 Democrats (Nelson (D-NE) and Miller (D-GA)) voted for itEconomic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001*58–33–2–7YesMarriage Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2000*60–34–5YesTaxpayer Refund and Relief Act of 1999*50–49Yes, 3 Democrats (Breaux (D-LA), Landrieu (D-LA), Torricelli (D-NJ)) voted for itTaxpayer Relief Act of 199792–8YesBalanced Budget Act of 1997*85–15YesPersonal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act*74–24–2YesBalanced Budget Act of 1995*52–47YesOmnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 199349–49–2NoOmnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990*54–46YesOmnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1989*87–7–6Yes

Steve Benen also takes on Hatch’s argument that Republicans chose to pass the Medicare prescription drug bill through regular out of respect for the Senate’s rules. “What Hatch conveniently forgets is that reconciliation wasn’t used when Republicans expanded Medicare (without paying for it) because Democrats didn’t filibuster the final bill. The GOP didn’t skip majority rule because of the goodness of their hearts; the Republican majority skipped it because they didn’t need it,” he writes.