On consecutive days, two Washington Post columnists who previously served as speechwriters for former President Bush took to the Post's op-ed page to attack the use of reconciliation for health care reform. In fact, major parts of Bush's agenda were passed through the reconciliation process, and that process has often been used to pass health care related measures.
Gerson, Thiessen attack supposedly "extraordinary" process of reconciliation
Thiessen attacked Democrats' potential use of reconciliation as one of the Senate's "extraordinary parliamentary procedures." On February 23, Thiessen wrote of President Obama's proposed health care summit:
The president's real objective is to paint GOP leaders as obstructionists -- so that Democrats have an excuse to ram through their health-care legislation using extraordinary parliamentary procedures. Obstructionism has been Obama's mantra ever since Massachusetts GOP Sen. Scott Brown's election. Just last week in Denver, Obama declared that "for those who don't believe in government, those who don't believe that we have obligations to each other, it's a lot easier task. If you can gum up the works, if you make things broken, if the Senate doesn't get anything done, well, that's consistent with their philosophy." This is dishonest. Republicans have a robust health-care agenda, from health savings accounts, to association health plans, insurance portability, and medical liability reform.
Gerson called the reconciliation process "a quick dirty shove" and "a threat as transparent as a horse's head in a senator's bed." In his February 24 column, Gerson called Democratic leaders' efforts to pass health care reform "delusional," writing:
And the proposed form of this insistence -- enacting health reform through the quick, dirty shove of the reconciliation process -- would add coercion to arrogance. Majority Leader Harry Reid has declared that "everything is on the table" -- as though Senate Republicans and Democratic moderates were the domestic equivalents of Iran. This is the political context that Democratic leaders have set for their historically "transparent" health summit -- a threat as transparent as a horse's head in a senator's bed.
Gerson and Thiessen's former boss used reconciliation to pass his agenda
Bush signed tax cuts passed via reconciliation. In a March 28, 2009, article, The New York Times reported that "the long record of Republican support for fast-tracking budget-related bills definitely dilutes their ability to challenge Democrats on the issue." During the previous administration, Republicans used the budget reconciliation process to pass Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts as well as the 2005 "Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act."
Reconciliation has been used to pass major changes to health care laws
Reconciliation has repeatedly been used to reform health care. On February 24, NPR noted that many "major changes to health care laws" passed via reconciliation. These measures include COBRA, which allows laid off workers to keep their insurance coverage, and SCHIP, a children's health insurance program:
Additionally, during a February 24 broadcast of NPR's Morning Edition, Julie Rovner quoted George Washington University health policy professor Sara Rosenbaum saying: "In fact, the way in which virtually all of health reform, with very, very limited exceptions, has happened over the past 30 years has been the reconciliation process."