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.
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) rejected this path, telling the Politico that he does not support the reconciliation process and that the health care bill should be broken up and voted on “a piece at a time, as opposed to a comprehensive approach.” He explained, “We’ve tried a comprehensive approach and it’s clear that it won’t be possible.” While Nelson rules reconciliation out of the question for health care, he was singing a different tune in the past. The Nebraska senator has voted in favor of four of the five bills passed through reconciliation since he came to office in 2001, including Bush’s tax cuts for the super-wealthy:
— Nelson voted to use reconciliation to pass Bush’s 2001 tax cuts for the wealthy. The senator was one of twelve Democrats who 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 tax cuts for the super-wealthy. [5/26/2001]
— Nelson voted to use reconciliation to pass Bush’s follow-up tax cuts for the wealthy in 2003. The senator was one of only two Democrats who voted for the The Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, which contained an additional $330 billion in tax cuts. The tax cuts would not have passed without Nelson’s vote. [5/23/2003]
— Nelson voted to use reconciliation to pass an extension of the reduced tax rates on capital gains. The senator was one of three Democrats to vote 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 . [5/11/2006]
— Nelson voted to use reconciliation to pass a bill helping students afford college tuition. The senator joined the rest of the Democratic caucus to vote for the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007 [9/7/2007]
Given the fact that three out of four of the reconciliation bills Nelson has supported 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.
Sens. Bayh (D-IN) and Lincoln (D-AR) have also said they are against reconciliation. Lincoln has previously voted for a reconciliation bill that gave massive tax cuts for the wealthy, while Bayh voted for the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007, which was passed via reconciliation.