The Hill continues to ignore GOP's past embrace of reconciliation

The Hill again reported Senate Republicans' objections to the Democrats' use of reconciliation to pass health care reform without noting Republicans' past support for reconciliation.

In a May 9 article about the congressional debate over health care, The Hill reported that "[Sen. Chuck] Grassley [R-IA], [Sen. Mike] Enzi [R-WY] and other Senate Republicans see the decision by Democrats to include partisan budget reconciliation instructions, which would allow a bill to pass with a simply majority, as a move of bad faith." But The Hill did not disclose that Enzi, Grassley, and numerous other Republicans previously supported reconciliation. The Hill similarly ignored Republicans' past support for reconciliation in March 31 and April 27 articles reporting their recent criticisms of Democrats for considering that procedural tool.

Enzi and Grassley were among 51 senators who voted against striking language from the 2005 budget resolution allowing the reconciliation process to be used to permit oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Enzi and Grassley also were among the 51 senators -- all 50 Republicans and Sen. Zell Miller (D-GA) -- who voted in favor of a 2001 amendment to the fiscal year 2002 budget resolution that allowed for the consideration of President Bush's 2001 tax cuts -- the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 -- through the reconciliation process. Grassley subsequently voted for the tax cut bill itself; Enzi did not vote.

Additionally, in 2003, Enzi and Grassley voted for the Senate version of the fiscal 2004 budget resolution that called for additional tax cuts to be considered under reconciliation and for the final version of the 2004 budget resolution. Enzi and Grassley also voted against an amendment to the Senate version of the budget resolution, proposed by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), that would have stripped reconciliation instructions from the resolution. Enzi and Grassley later voted for the tax cut bill passed under reconciliation. In 2005, Enzi and Grassley voted for the final version of the fiscal 2006 budget resolution, which also called for tax cuts through reconciliation.

From the May 9 Hill article:

Congressional Republicans planning for a full political debate over health reform find themselves having to develop two strategies that inevitably conflict unless a true bipartisan compromise is formed.

On one track, GOP senators such as Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.) are full participants in negotiating sessions with Senate Democrats as they try to thread the needle and assemble a bill that could achieve President Obama's goals of reducing healthcare spending, moving toward universal coverage and improving the quality of American medical care but can also attract majority support within both parties.

But even as these and other senators continue to work toward this outcome, GOP lawmakers in both chambers also are gearing up to fight hard against Obama and congressional Democrats on healthcare.

Republican task forces in the House and Senate have been meeting for months to devise talking points against Democratic ideas and develop an alternative health reform plan to use as a counterpoint to Obama and his allies.

Basing most of their criticism on Obama's proposals such as creating a public plan to provide health benefits and funding comparative effectiveness research, the GOP's message is that the Democratic platform would weaken the private insurance system to provides coverage to most middle-class voters through their employers and would give the government too much control on the healthcare market.

The tension among Republicans about how to approach health reform, which they acknowledge is popular with voters in concept, is evident in recent remarks by Grassley, who has been working closely with Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

“We have to be developing a bipartisan package with Baucus, with that being our goal and right now our only goal, but [we] can't wait until the midnight hour to have something that Republicans can rally behind,” said Grassley, the ranking member of the Finance Committee.

But Grassley also knows that many Republicans lack patience with these bipartisan talks and mistrust the intentions of the Democratic leadership on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Grassley, Enzi and other Senate Republicans see the decision by Democrats to include partisan budget reconciliation instructions, which would allow a bill to pass with a simply majority, as a move of bad faith.

“I think some Republicans would like to have it released ahead of time but I think that that draws a line in the sand and I wouldn't draw a line in the sand until I know we're going to have reconciliation,” Grassley said.