JONATHAN CHAIT FEBRUARY 10, 2011
Karl Rove has an op-ed column in the Wall Street Journal today -- and, yes, I admit that merely typing those words involuntarily triggers my saliva glands -- that is entirely dedicated to urging Republicans to use the budget reconciliation process to repeal the Affordable Care Act:
Fear not, sayeth Speaker Pelosi, all will be fixed with the magic dust known as "reconciliation"—a process that allows budget and spending bills to move through the Senate with 51 votes instead of 60...House Democrats would be foolish to trust a process that has deeply alienated the American public.
No, wait, sorry! That's his March 11, 2010 column entitled "The Trouble With 'Reconciliation.'" Here is Rove's pro-reconciliation column:
Legislation that looks anything like the bill moving through the House will contain deeply unpopular provisions -- including massive deficit spending, tax hikes and Medicare cuts -- and create enormous ill will on Capitol Hill. This will be especially true if Democrats rely on parliamentary tricks to pass a bill in the Senate with 51 votes.
Argh. Whoops. That turns out to be a Rove column from September, 2009 denouncing the use of reconciliation. Let's see if this is it:
MR. BROKAW: But the fact of the matter is we don't know the exact definition of the final bill because it'll go through this complicated process, get to reconciliation, some of the costs will be addressed then.
MR. ROVE: Right. And, and isn't that amazing? We're asking people of the U.S. House, House of Representatives not to vote on the bill but to vote on a placeholder. And the final terms of this huge measure affecting one-sixth of our economy will be defined later, perhaps in a, in a bill in the Senate designed to circumvent the normal order of business. That's a pretty remarkable way to try and go pass a big piece of legislation without bipartisan support.
The Budget Act of 1974 established the reconciliation process. The House and Senate Budget Committees can direct other committees to make changes in mandatory spending (like ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies) and the tax code (such as ObamaCare's levies on insurance policies, hospitals and drug companies) to make spending and revenue conform with the goals set by the annual budget resolution.
For example, under reconciliation the Senate Budget Committee could instruct the Senate Finance Committee to reduce mandatory spending on insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion. These two items make up more than 90% of spending in ObamaCare. All the changes from all the committees are then bundled into one measure and voted upon. Because reconciliation is protected by the rules of the budget process, it doesn't take 60 votes to bring it up and it requires only a simple majority to pass.
Wow -- it turns out that there's a procedure for making budget-related changes mandated by the Budget Act of 1974! And it allows you to bypass the sacred 60 vote supermajority requirement that the Founding Fathers set out as the bedrock of Constitutional government! You can even use it to make major policy changes if you want. Sadly, Rove arrived at this discovery too late to alter his hysterical denunciations of the Democrats use of this procedure to make small, budget-related changes to the Affordable Care Act.
By the way, here is a screenshot of what comes up when you Google "karl rove reconciliation":