Following the election of Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) in the Massachusetts special election, Democrats have been discussing ways to pass a comprehensive health care bill that will not be killed by a GOP-led filibuster. One idea that has been floated is for the House to pass the Senate’s health care bill and also immediately amend the bill to make it more progressive and acceptable to members in the House via a reconciliation bill, which requires only a simple majority vote in the Senate to pass.
Today, in the Washington Post, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has written an op-ed condemning the use of reconciliation for health care, saying that it would be “inappropriate” to use the process, claiming that it was “designed to balance the federal budget.” While admitting that “both parties have used the process” in the past to pass legislation such as the Welfare and Medicaid Reform Act of 1996, he claims that using reconciliation would amount to an “abuse that stifles dissent and badly undermines our constitutional checks and balances.” Yet what Hatch fails to mention is that he has voted for bills passed through reconciliation every single time a bill was offered through the process during the Bush years, including to pass massive tax cuts for the wealthy that served to do anything but “balance the federal budget”:
– Hatch voted to use reconciliation to pass Bush’s 2001 tax cuts for the wealthy. The senator voted for the $1.3 trillion in tax cuts contained in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, which included billions of dollars of budget-busting tax cuts for the super-wealthy. [5/26/2001]
– Hatch voted to use reconciliation to pass Bush’s follow-up tax cuts for the wealthy in 2003. The senator voted for the The Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, which contained an additional $330 billion in budget-busting tax cuts. [5/23/2003]
– Hatch voted to use reconciliation to pass the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The senator voted to pass the bill along a 52–47 vote, which would not have been able to pass without the use of reconciliation. [11/3/2005]
– Hatch voted to use reconciliation to pass an extension of the reduced tax rates on capital gains. The senator voted to shield wealthy investors from an increase in their capital gains tax with a vote in the affirmative for the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 . [5/11/2001]
– Hatch voted to use reconciliation to pass a bill helping students afford college tuition. The senator joined a large Senate majority to vote for the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007, which was not directly related to the budget. [9/7/2007]
It also important to note that Hatch is misrepresenting what Democrats in Congress are attempting to use the reconciliation process for. While the senator claims that they are planning to use reconciliation to “ram through the Senate a multitrillion-dollar health-care bill,” the truth is that reconciliation advocates are talking about using the process to amend the bill already passed by the Senate so that it is more amenable to members of the House of Representatives.
Given the fact that three out of five of the reconciliation bills Hatch supported during the Bush years mostly benefited the wealthiest Americans, the logical question to ask is why the reconciliation process he has supported in the past is apparently appropriate for siphoning wealth to the richest Americans but not to get health care for tens of millions of Americans who lack it.