Wash. Post reported GOP criticism of reconciliation, but not that GOP repeatedly used process

››› ››› DIANNA PARKER

The Washington Post reported that Senate Republicans argued that use of the budget reconciliation process to pass President Obama's health, education and energy initiatives "would make bipartisan cooperation all but impossible on some of the most significant measures to come before the Senate in years," but not that Republicans used the reconciliation process to pass several major Bush administration initiatives.

In an April 3 Washington Post article about Congress approving the fiscal year 2010 budget resolution, reporter Lori Montgomery wrote that the "biggest dispute between the two chambers is whether to use a powerful procedural shortcut that could allow [President] Obama's health, education and energy initiatives to pass the Senate with 51 votes rather than the usual 60, eliminating the need to win over any Republicans." Later, she wrote that "Senate Republicans -- and some Senate Democrats -- argue that the maneuver would make bipartisan cooperation all but impossible on some of the most significant measures to come before the Senate in years." However, in reporting Republican criticism, Montgomery did not mention that members of the GOP have supported using the budget reconciliation process to pass several major Bush administration initiatives -- a fact the Post has noted in at least two previous articles. These initiatives include the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005, and an effort to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

Indeed, an April 1 Post article reported that "[a]dvocates defend reconciliation as a legitimate tool used more often by Republicans in recent years, most notably to pass President George W. Bush's tax cuts." Further, a March 31 Post article asserting that Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) is the "de facto leader of the opposition to Obama's $3.5 trillion budget" reported that "while Gregg has sharply attacked Democrats for considering the use of reconciliation, which would allow them eventually to pass legislation to reform health care with 51 votes rather than the normal 60 that would be needed to avoid a filibuster, Gregg publicly favored such a provision as Budget Committee chairman in 2005 as part of an attempt to push through a GOP-backed proposal to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." Gregg was one of 51 senators who voted against striking language allowing the reconciliation process to be used to open up the refuge from the budget resolution and introduced a reconciliation bill that, as originally introduced in and passed by the Senate, included a provision to open up the refuge to drilling. (The bill as enacted did not contain such a provision.)

Similarly, The New York Times reported in a March 28 article that "the long record of Republican support for fast-tracking budget-related bills definitely dilutes their ability to challenge Democrats on the issue." Noting the 2001 tax cuts and Gregg's support for opening the Arctic refuge, the Times reported: "That means critics can have a field day lampooning Republicans and asking them -- as Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, did repeatedly the other day -- why reconciliation was such a good idea when it came to giving tax cuts to millionaires but such a bad one when it comes to trying to provide health care to average Americans."

As Media Matters for America has noted, in a May 23, 2001, article (accessed via Nexis) headlined "Tax Cut Hits Senate Snag; Angry Democrats Offer Amendments to Slow Bill's Progress," the Post reported that "[o]ver the vehement protests of Democrats, the Republican leadership earlier in the year had prevailed in a 51 to 49 vote to place the tax cut on a fast-track process known as reconciliation. This not only allowed passage of tax cut legislation with just a majority vote -- compared to 60 votes under Senate rules -- but limited debate to 20 hours." The article continued: "Democrats 'felt they were being mistreated, and the majority was trampling on the minority's rights,' said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). 'The procedure was an abuse of the process.' "

From Montgomery's April 3 Post article:

Republicans blasted the Democratic budget as a reckless manifesto that would greatly expand the size of government and double the national debt within five years. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he feared the consequences of a budget that "calls for a dramatic and potentially irreversible shift of our nation to the left in the areas of health care, education and private enterprise."

Democrats rallied behind the president, however, arguing that their budget would rebuild an economy ruined by eight years of Republican leadership. In the House, fiscal conservatives generally fell in line behind the plan, even though it would generate a deficit of more than $1.2 trillion next year and produce large annual deficits well into the future. The progressive caucus offered an alternative budget plan primarily to voice opposition to the war in Iraq, though many of its members also voted for the revised Obama budget plan.

The House voted 233 to 196 to support the Democratic budget proposal, with just 20 Democrats voting with Republicans in opposition. The Senate approved its blueprint 55 to 43, with all but two Democrats voting yes.

The biggest dispute between the two chambers is whether to use a powerful procedural shortcut that could allow Obama's health, education and energy initiatives to pass the Senate with 51 votes rather than the usual 60, eliminating the need to win over any Republicans.

The House yesterday voted to include the procedure, known as reconciliation, in its budget plan to speed health care and education legislation. But Senate Republicans -- and some Senate Democrats -- argue that the maneuver would make bipartisan cooperation all but impossible on some of the most significant measures to come before the Senate in years.

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Education, Environment & Science, Energy, Government, Health Care
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The Washington Post
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