Today, Politico reported that Republican senators are prepared to go “nuclear” — essentially shutting down the Senate through the use of parliamentary maneuvers — if President Obama attempts to use budget reconciliation to pass key parts of his legislative agenda, such as health care reform and cap-and-trade. Reconciliation allows some legislation to be protected from filibusters and passed by a simple majority. On NPR this morning, Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) repeated a now familiar attack on budget reconciliation:
BOND: “In this post-partisan time of Barack Obama, we’re seeing a little Chicago politics. They steamroller those who disagree with them, then, I guess in Chicago, they coat them in cement and drop them in the river.” [NPR, 3/24/09]
Bond appears to be parroting his colleague Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), who said any use of budget reconciliation by President Obama would be “regarded as an act of violence” against Republicans, and likened it to “running over the minority, putting them in cement and throwing them in the Chicago River.” Other GOP senators have chimed in against reconciliation, with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) calling it a “purely partisan exercise” and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) saying it “would be a mess.”
Despite their howls against Obama, Republicans employed the same procedure to pass major Bush agenda items (which were supported by all four aforementioned Senators):
— The 2001 Bush Tax Cuts [HR 1836, 3/26/01] — The 2003 Bush Tax Cuts [HR 2, 3/23/03] — Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 [HR 4297, 5/11/06] — The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 [H. Con Res. 95, 12/21/05]
As ThinkProgress has noted, Gregg defended using the reconciliation procedure to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for domestic drilling in 2005, arguing, “The president asked for it, and we’re trying to do what the president asked for.” Evidently, Gregg has lost the same sense of patriotic duty.
While Republicans seem to be experiencing a particular form of political amnesia from the Bush years, they ought to be reminded that budget reconciliation has been used by several other presidents, including Clinton and Reagan. In fact, Republicans — with Bond and Gregg among the leaders of the charge — were instrumental in pushing through key provisions of their signature legislative agenda, the Contract with America, using budget reconciliation.
A list of instances where reconciliation was implemented:
Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1980Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1982Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1983Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1989Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993Balanced Budget Act of 1995 (vetoed)Personal Responsibility and Budget Reconciliation Act of 1996Balanced Budget Act of 1997Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997Taxpayer Refund and Relief Act of 1999 (vetoed)Marriage Tax Relief Act of 2000 (vetoed)Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005
The AP reports that the House will not use the reconciliation process for cap and trade but will for health care. “Reconciliation is pretty well settled,” House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-SC) said. “I think we’ll have reconciliation (for) health care.”