Democrats Could Resort to Procedural Rule to Avoid Healthcare Filibuster

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Thanks to a little-known congressional budget procedure called “reconciliation,” Democrats could pass sweeping healthcare reform without fear of a Republican filibuster in the Senate. When President Clinton wanted to use the rule in 1993, Democratic leaders in the Senate decided they didn’t want to abuse Senate rules on such important legislation. Sixteen years later, things have change. Majority Leader Harry Reid has made it known reconciliation should remain on the table.

What is reconciliation? Here’s the summary:

Reconciliation is a procedure under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 by which Congress implements budget resolution policies affecting mainly permanent spending and revenue programs. The principal focus in the reconciliation process has been deficit reduction, but in recent years reconciliation has encompassed revenue reduction generally and spending increases in selected program areas.

So, since healthcare reform is expected to be part of the new budget, it can be swept in through reconciliation.

Bear in mind, Reid has also stated that the bipartisan bill currently in the works from Democrat Max Baucus and Republican Chuck Grassley should be given a chance. I hope this is the opinion of President Obama as well, because resorting to reconciliation on such significant legislation would probably destroy any chance of bipartisanship in the future. Yes, some Republicans will obstruct whatever healthcare bill comes up for a vote, but there are still enough reasonable Republican Senators for the Democrats to be able to craft a balanced bill that can avoid a filibuster.

I understand Democrats are eager to reform healthcare and that it is an issue that needs some form of government action (to, if nothing else, correct previous, bad government actions from the municipal level to the federal level). But passing the first bill which can win 51 Senate votes is very unlikely to yield balanced, smart legislation. Giving Republican Senators a voice will ensure the regulation-happy contingent of the Democratic party will be somewhat subdued by smart deregulatory ideas that exist on the right.

I’m pretty sure a large majority of Americans want healthcare reform. Hopefully we will get reform that the majority can support.