Republicans Wrong, Reconciliation Used for Past Health Reform
Republican Senators Jon Kyl of Arizona and Orrin Hatch of Utah have both recently asserted to the media that, in the past, reconciliation had not been used as a tool to reform health care.
Comments from several members of the Republican Party, including Representative and House Leader John Boehner of Ohio and Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, denouncing the use of reconciliation to pass the health care bill have escalated as the health care summit to be hosted by President Obama has neared.
The summit is scheduled for today, February 25, 2010. In fact, there is a 30 year record of the use of reconciliation in relation to health care, including the year 1982 and several years throughout the administration of the late Republican President Ronald Reagan.
Reconciliation is the passage of a bill in the Senate by a simple majority vote, 51 or more votes, not the super majority, filibuster proof vote of 60, which Republicans have been insisting occur on all matters that have come before the Senate since President Obama and his administration took office in 2009.
The rules of the U.S. Senate allow filibusters—otherwise known as “talking a bill to death.” A Senator wanting to block voting on a particular bill can take the floor and talk almost indefinitely, until weary colleagues either agree with the orator or vote to end the discussion. Thus Senators can “hijack” the Senate and derail or detour the legislative process. The word “filibuster” comes from the Dutch word vrijbuiter, which means pirate.
The late Republican Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina holds the record for the longest filibuster, speaking for 24 hours and 18 minutes, blocking a vote on a civil rights bill in 1957.
A History Of Reconciliation
For 30 years, major changes to health care laws have passed via the budget reconciliation process.
Here are a few examples:
1982 — TEFRA: The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act first opened Medicare to HMOs
1986 — COBRA: The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act allowed people who were laid off to keep their health coverage, and stopped hospitals from dumping ER patients unable to pay for their care
1987 — OBRA '87: Added nursing home protection rules to Medicare and Medicaid, created no-fault vaccine injury compensation program
1989 — OBRA '89: Overhauled doctor payment system for Medicare, created new federal agency on research and quality of care
1990 — OBRA '90: Added cancer screenings to Medicare, required providers to notify patients about advance directives and living wills, expanded Medicaid to all kids living below poverty level, required drug companies to provide discounts to Medicaid
1993 — OBRA '93: created federal vaccine funding for all children
1996 — Welfare Reform: Separated Medicaid from welfare
1997 — BBA: The Balanced Budget Act created the state-federal childrens' health program called CHIP
2005 — DRA: The Deficit Reduction Act reduced Medicaid spending, allowed parents of disabled children to buy into Medicaid
Invited by the White House:
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
- Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
- Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Arizona
Invited by the House and Senate Leadership:
- Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
- Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J.
- Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.
- Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif