At the health care summit last week, nearly every Republican senator and congressman made clear their disapproval of using a process known as reconciliation to pass health care reform. Reconciliation is a process that is used for budgetary reasons in order to circumvent a filibuster and achieve a straight up-or-down vote. It helps needed budgetary bills move through Congress in a timelier manner. It has become somewhat of a hot-button issue due to the possible repercussions. Democrats fear using reconciliation would divide the House and the Senate or, in other words, Republicans would continue to vote no on every last thing Obama proposes. So really, there would be no repercussions.
The health care bill does, in fact, account for a large portion of the economy and would have a significant impact on the budget. Republicans actually back me up on this. By the Republicans persistent efforts, they have declared over and over again that health care accounts for a large part of the economy. At the health care summit last week, Lamar Alexander defiantly said that health care makes up roughly 17 percent of the economy and that we should not change it all at once. With that line of thought, reconciliation actually should be used in this case, right?
Republicans are very familiar with reconciliation. Of the 21 times reconciliation has been used, 15 of those were for legislation that Republicans favored. During the George W. Bush administration’s time in office, reconciliation was used three times for tax cuts — even when the Congressional Budget Office was clear about what the devastating effects would be. In 2001, the tax cuts were predicted to reduce surpluses by $1.35 billion over the following 10 years. The famous 2003 “Bush tax cuts” for the rich were projected to increase the national deficit by nearly $340 billion over the 10 subsequent years. The 2006 tax cuts were predicted to increase the deficit by only $70 billion in just a few years.
The last cut and its effects have come and gone already, so you can forget about that one. Where were fiscal conservatives on those, by the way? You know, those same conservatives that argue the health care bill will turn America into a Third World country.
But Republicans constantly want everybody to know just how big of an impact this “government takeover” of health care is going to have on the economy. And that’s true — partially. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicts that the proposed Senate bill will reduce the deficit by $132 billion over the first ten years. And that’s not all — over the second 10 years, the proposed reform is projected to reduce the deficit by an additional $650 billion. For obvious reasons, fiscal conservatives are against the bill.
Republicans continue to insist that we should take it slow on health care reform or, even better, scrap the whole thing entirely. I say use the democratic tool of reconciliation, get a simple majority vote, and pass health care reform already. It’s far overdue.
Randal Serr is a liberal political columnist for Rhombus.
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