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Senate Reconciliation 101

Senate Reconciliation was established in 1974 under the Democrat-controlled 93rd Congress.  Reconciliation exists for a very specific purpose: to eliminate the threat of a minority party filibuster on budget bills.  It has been used 22 times since its inception, and I’ll trust Senator Reid’s figure that 16 of those were by Republicans—most recently to pass the “Bush Tax Cuts.”  However, Reid is incredibly misleading when he says Republicans should “stop crying about Reconciliation as if it’s never been done before.”  While it has been used to pass budget-related legislation, it has never been used to create a new program—though not for lack of trying.

The last time Democrats sought to take over the American Health Care system, Bill Clinton proposed the Senate use Reconciliation to force the measure through in the same manner as his FY-1994 budget.  In a rare demonstration of legislative integrity, Senator Byrd insisted HillaryCare did not qualify for the procedure.  The legislation was sidelined, and the failed attempt to hijack our Health Care system contributed to the massive Congressional power swing during 1994’s midterm elections.

Under the 1985 (amended 1990) Byrd rule, the Senate established 6 cases which disqualify a bill from being considered under Reconciliation.  ObamaCare violates at least two, listed below:

  • if it produces a change in outlays or revenues which is merely incidental to the non-budgetary components of the provision;
  • if it would increase the deficit for a fiscal year beyond those covered by the reconciliation measure, though the provisions in question may receive an exception if they in total in a Title of the measure net to a reduction in the deficit;

On the first: ObamaCare changes federal spending, but not because it is a “spending bill.”  The legislation increases spending because of the “non-budgetary components” that establish the nationalized Health Care system.  On the second: despite claims to the contrary, ObamaCare will likely increase the deficit every year, and will definitely increase the deficit after the 10th year in violation of this provision.  There is an escape hatch if the Democrats add a “sunset-provision” and allow the legislation to expire after 10 years, but it is unlikely Democrats would put ObamaCare’s fate in the hands of a future Congress that may simply refuse a vote, and by doing so allow an unpopular program to expire.

As many times as the Democrats claim Reconciliation has been used before, as many times as they point out that Republicans have used it more frequently, the amendments to ObamaCare will not constitute a budget bill.  This is a deliberate attempt to circumvent the democratic process and force through what is arguably the single largest power-grab in American history.  The Democrat party, which feigns anger at the hyper-politicization of Washington, is willing to ignore the will of the American people and force through bad legislation just to secure a political victory by constructing a monument to Obama in clear violation of Senate rules and legislative tradition.

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