Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 21, 2010

READY FOR MORE RECONCILIATION?.... Budget reconciliation rules have been around for a while, but never came to the public's attention in earnest until this year -- when Republicans decided the legislative procedure is somehow controversial, despite all the times they used it when they were in the majority.

And while the fight over health care reform wrapped up last month, reconciliation talk isn't quite finished yet.

Senate Democrats have written their budget resolution so they can pass jobs legislation using reconciliation, the controversial process used last month to move healthcare reform.

The resolution does not specify what specific jobs measures could be covered, and does not explicitly allow for the use of reconciliation rules to pass energy legislation or the extension of George W. Bush-era tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and a number of other Democrats on Tuesday, however, said the fast-track process could be used to move tax cuts, energy legislation and more later this year.

"There are many different areas it could be used," Cardin said.

What a good point -- reconciliation can be used in "many different areas."

The reference to energy legislation wasn't a direct quote from Cardin, and as far as I can tell, this is the first time the notion of using reconciliation for the energy bill has been raised in earnest by a senator. Here's hoping it's not the last.

Jon Chait added, "[A]s the Congressional session winds down, reconciliation is going to be the biggest weapon left in the Democrats' arsenal. It will be interesting to see how they deploy it."

It will, indeed. Given all the things Dems might want to do before the end of this Congress, reconciliation may prove to make the difference between success and disappointment.

Steve Benen 10:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (13)

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Comments

How about climate change legislation, during the lame-duck session, using reconciliation?

It may our last, best chance.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on April 21, 2010 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

And wasn't it nice of The Hill to give the GOP a running start by referring to the process as "controversial"?

Posted by: demtom on April 21, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Cardin has Blue Dogged it on many issues, so it's interesting to hear him say this.

Posted by: shortstop on April 21, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Reconciliation is not controversial. Both sides have done it many times.

Is something controversial just because the Republicans say it is? Apparently so.

The problem lies with lazy reporting by members of the mainstream media who are all too eager to find equivalency in every political issue. Some issues, like reining in the Wall Street greedheads and doing something about climate change, really are not that controversial.

The word controversial completely loses its meaning when it is inserted into every discussion.

Posted by: daveb99 on April 21, 2010 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

You know what SHOULD be "controversial"? The current state of the Senate.

In an ideal representative democracy, effective policy is developed, and elected officials (who incidentally won the second they got 1 vote more than 50% of the votes) vote up or down on it... so how is it that an arcane Senate rule violating that principle becomes NON-controversial?

Posted by: Ohioan on April 21, 2010 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

I'll take a public option. Thanks!

Posted by: John Henry on April 21, 2010 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Hopefully this is the rest of the "jobs agenda" that was put off when the House passed that $150 billion tax cuts bill and the Senate passed only a $15 billion subset consisting mostly of tax cuts. (Numbers approximate.) If you're using reconciliation anyway why not just go for everything?

I wonder if when the jobs numbers are fully out for the period immediately following the first jobs bill, the democrats will be able to point to that and say, look, a little bit of jobs stimulus worked, let's do much more.

Posted by: mcc on April 21, 2010 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

A "controversial process"?! Only since Obama took office, the Republicans doubled down on obstructionism and the so-called "liberal media" uncritically adopted conservative frames.

(Okay, the last condition has been in place for years now, but still!)

Posted by: Gregory on April 21, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Just keep in mind that the Democratic party might not be in control that much longer when discussing reconciliation and filibuster reform.

We don't need some idiots, and that seems to be what the next republican ruling class will be, using it fund new wars or privatize Social Security.

Some restraint would be wise for the future.

Posted by: ScottW714 on April 21, 2010 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

ScottW714 argues in favor of timidity and continuing to give the Republicans a veto. Even if Republicans pick up the House and Senate (and the latter is an impossibility), Obama still has a veto. And what's the point of electing Democrats if they refuse to do anything that Republicans don't like?

Yes, weakening the filibuster could help Republicans get their policies enacted if they manage to take over the House, Senate, and White House. But if they manage to do that, then it will be because the American people chose them. This is supposed to be a democracy.

Posted by: Joe Buck on April 21, 2010 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

"The resolution does not specify what specific jobs measures could be covered, and does not explicitly allow for the use of reconciliation rules to pass energy legislation or the extension of George W. Bush-era tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year."


"extension of George W. Bush-era tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year"?!?!


I thought they were gonna let those EXPIRE finally. Please tell me I'm reading that wrong.

Posted by: ErikTheRed on April 21, 2010 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Erik, read that again.

The Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year. This is because the first time they passed they passed via reconciliation. Congress must act if it wants to extend them.

The reconciliation instructions for this year do not allow using reconciliation to extend the cuts. (Cardin seems to be saying if they want to they can pass new reconciliation instructions later.)

Posted by: mcc on April 21, 2010 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Adding unrelated provisions to bills has always struck me as shady no matter who was passing them.

Energy policy lumped in with badly needed Wall Street reform would be dirty pool. Does the end justify the means? I know it does for THEM. I may well like the result, but the process stinks. Reconciliation should only be a matter of adding provisions from one chamber not passed by the other or dropping same. I'm under the impression there's more leeway than that. I could be wrong.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on April 22, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK
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