Reconciliation is nothing new

As the health reform debate continues to surge on, President Obama recently called for a up or down vote to end the process within the next few weeks. In the face of solid Republican opposition, the President and Democratic congressional leaders have been in talks about the process of reconciliation due to continued opposition from the minority party in Congress. Reconciliation is a process outlined in the Congressional Budget Act that allows for accelerated consideration of legislation involving mandatory spending programs or taxes by ensuring that a minority of Senators can’t block the will of the majority through a filibuster (refusing to stop debating the issue). Reconciliation legislation cannot be filibustered and needs only 51 votes to pass, instead of the usual 60.

Despite some arguments, reconciliation has previously been used to enact major policy decisions, including welfare reform in 1996, the creation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (which enables thousands of Arkansas children to get health care), and the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. Because increasing health care costs are the largest cause of the federal government’s long-term budget problems, the use of the reconciliation process means that the ensuing legislation will need to be planned so it does not increase the deficit. Comprehensive health reform will be a lifesaver for millions of Americans and will also be part of the budget solution for America.

For more details, check out this report from The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities detailing why using reconciliation to enact health reform is consistent with previous practices.