JONATHAN CHAIT MARCH 1, 2010
Republicans have thrown up a nearly endless series of reasons why it would be an unprecedented moral outrage for Democrats to use budget reconciliation to amend health care legislation: reconciliation has never been used for major policy, it's never been used for health care, it's only been used for deficit reduction. All these arguments have been debunked. Finally, former Republican advisor Martin Gold has a new reason why this use of reconciliation would be so unprecedented:
Republicans have used the tool frequently and for far more than just minor fiscal adjustments. But Gold believes the reason Democrats will deploy the strategy is blatantly political — in “express defiance of an election outcome” — and would set a negative precedent in the Senate.
Well, it's a distinction. Reconciliation may have been previously used for major policy changes, health care reform, or measures that (unlike health care reform) are scored as increasing the deficit. But, it's true, it's never previously been used in "express defiance of an election outcome." I have a hard time understanding why this distinction would suddenly render reconciliation unthinkable. But of course, this is the sort of logic that you come up with when you're justifying partisan hypocrisy. No two episodes are ever exactly alike. If you want to explain why it's wrong for the other party to employ a tactic your party used, if you look hard enough, you can always find some difference in circumstance and hold that up as the key distinction.
This sort of faux moral scrupulousness is just a tool for parties to turn Congressional rules and procedures into a tactical advantage for achieving their policy goals. You think I'm hurling an unfair accusation at Gold? Here's an advertising pitch for a lobbying seminar Gold (who works for Covington and Burling) held on behalf of the American League of Lobbyists:
Can you turn Congressional rules and procedures into a tactical advantage for achieving your policy goals? Absolutely!
Sounds like just the sort of ethical arbiter we should be paying attention to.