The Washington Post again reported GOP criticism of the Democrats' potential use of the reconciliation process to pass health-care and education bills without noting that Republicans repeatedly voted in favor of using reconciliation as a method to pass President Bush's tax cut bills.
In an April 9 article about Democrats' legislative priorities, The Washington Post wrote, “Democrats are sure to incite Republicans if they adopt a shortcut that would allow them to pass major health-care and education bills with just 51 votes in the Senate, where Democrats are two seats shy of the filibuster-proof margin of 60 seats. The rule, known as 'reconciliation,' would fuel GOP charges that [President] Obama has ditched bipartisanship.” The article, by Paul Kane and Shailagh Murray, then quoted Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) saying, “If they exercise that tool, it's going to be infinitely more difficult to bridge the partisan divide.” However, Kane and Murray did not mention that congressional Republicans -- including Snowe herself -- voted to allow the use of the budget reconciliation process to pass major Bush administration initiatives. Indeed, Murray herself noted in an April 1 article 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."
As Media Matters for America has noted, Republicans used the reconciliation process to pass legislation including the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, and the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005. In a March 28 article, The New York Times reported: "[T]here are a couple of problems for Republicans as they push back furiously against the idea, chief of which is the fact that they used the process themselves on several occasions, notably when enacting more than $1 trillion in tax cuts in 2001." The article continued:
“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.”
Snowe was 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 President Bush's 2001 tax cuts -- the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 -- through the reconciliation process. Snowe later voted for the tax cut bill itself.
Further, in 2003, Snowe 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 (Snowe voted against the final version of the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 that resulted from the reconciliation process). She also voted against an amendment to the Senate version of the budget resolution that would have stripped reconciliation instructions from the resolution. In offering his amendment, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) asserted that the reconciliation instructions constituted “an abuse of the budget process.”
As Media Matters has also documented, in an April 3 Post article, reporter Lori Montgomery 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,” but did not note that Republicans have used the reconciliation process.
From Kane and Murray's April 9 Washington Post article, “Congress Ready to Slow Pace, Face Long-Term Issues”:
Democratic leaders agree that they are further along on a wide-ranging overhaul of health care than they are on Obama's revolutionary climate change agenda. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has been holding talks on health with insurance industry representatives, labor unions, hospital executives and -- perhaps most important -- key Republican lawmakers.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, warned that proposals for a government-funded competitor to private insurers and a health-care board with broad powers could meet GOP resistance to such deep federal intrusion into the private markets. But, he added, “I'm not saying anything will be impossible at this point.”
Democrats are sure to incite Republicans if they adopt a shortcut that would allow them to pass major health-care and education bills with just 51 votes in the Senate, where Democrats are two seats shy of the filibuster-proof margin of 60 seats. The rule, known as “reconciliation,” would fuel GOP charges that Obama has ditched bipartisanship.
“If they exercise that tool, it's going to be infinitely more difficult to bridge the partisan divide,” said Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), who was one of three Republicans to support the economic stimulus plan.