The Hill quoted objections by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Judd Gregg, both Republicans, to the Democrats' use of the reconciliation process to pass health care reform legislation, but failed to note that Republicans -- including both Ryan and Gregg -- repeatedly supported the Bush administration's use of reconciliation.
In an April 27 Hill article on congressional Democrats' reported decision to use the budget reconciliation process to advance health care reform and education initiatives, reporter Walter Alarkon quoted Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) referring to this use of the reconciliation process as “an unprecedented power grab,” and the “politics” of Hugo Chavez, respectively. However, Alarkon failed to note that Republicans, including both Ryan and Gregg, repeatedly supported using the budget reconciliation process to pass major Bush administration initiatives. Media Matters for America has documented a pattern of journalists uncritically quoting Republican congressmen criticizing the decision to use reconciliation as overly partisan, without noting that the congressmen they are quoting -- including Gregg, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) -- voted to allow the use of the budget reconciliation process to pass legislation during the Bush administration.
In his article, Alarkon reported that Ryan “said that a reconciliation bill to overhaul the healthcare system would be 'an unprecedented power grab' by Democrats” but did not note that Ryan repeatedly voted to allow the use of reconciliation to pass tax cut bills during the Bush administration. In March 2001, Ryan voted for a budget resolution which included language that allowed for the consideration of President Bush's 2001 tax cuts through the reconciliation process, and voted again in May to approve the final version. Additionally, in 2003, Ryan voted for the House version of the fiscal 2004 budget resolution that called for additional tax cuts to be considered under reconciliation, and also approved the final version of the 2004 budget resolution. In 2005, Ryan voted for the initial House version of the fiscal 2006 budget resolution, which also called for tax cuts through reconciliation, and again voted for the final version. Ryan subsequently voted in favor of all three tax cut bills passed under the reconciliation process themselves.
Alarkon also reported that Gregg “said that using reconciliation rules for a major policy shift would be like using the tactics of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez,” and quoted Gregg as saying, “I can understand shaking Hugo Chavez's hand [...] but I cannot understand embracing his politics.” As Media Matters has documented, as Budget Committee chairman in 2005, Gregg was one of 51 senators who voted against striking language from the budget resolution allowing the reconciliation process to be used to permit oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and introduced a reconciliation bill that, as originally introduced in and passed by the Senate, included a provision to open up the refuge. (The bill as enacted did not contain such a provision.)
Gregg was also one of 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 Bush's 2001 tax cuts -- the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 -- through the reconciliation process. Gregg subsequently voted for the tax cut bill itself.
Additionally, in 2003, Gregg 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. He 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. He later voted for the tax cut bill passed under reconciliation. In 2005, Gregg voted for the final version of the fiscal 2006 budget resolution, which also called for tax cuts through reconciliation. He subsequently voted for the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 itself.
From Alarkon's April 27 Hill article:
The House and Senate's versions of the budget closely resembles the spending blueprint offered by the White House.
The key feature that emerged from negotiations was the inclusion of fast-track reconciliation rules for healthcare and education reform.
Democrats can now use those rules to pass legislation in those areas with just a simple Senate majority instead of the 60 votes needed to push ahead most contentious items.
Centrist Democrats, including Conrad and Boyd, have warned against the use of the reconciliation process, saying that doing so would make it harder for them to win GOP support in the future. Rep. Paul Ryan (R- Wis.) said that a reconciliation bill to overhaul the healthcare system would be “an unprecedented power grab” by Democrats. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said that using reconciliation rules for a major policy shift would be like using the tactics of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
“I can understand shaking Hugo Chavez's hand,” said Gregg, referring to Obama's greeting of the socialist leader earlier this month, “but I cannot understand embracing his politics.”
Conrad has noted that the rules could also lead to legislation that's less than comprehensive, since they require the elimination of any provisions that have little effect on government spending or revenue.
Conrad said because of those reasons, he didn't think Democrats would resort to reconciliation to push through a healthcare bill. He noted that key Senate Republicans, including Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Orrin Hatch (Utah), have been involved in talks in the Senate over upcoming healthcare legislation.