Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Obama: 60 Votes to Pass Healthcare Needed

At least four times in the past few years, Obama has stressed that a 60% majority in the senate will be needed to pass any healthcare reform bill. This rule was originally created in the Senate to encourage bipartisanship and prevent any single party from forcing an unpopular agenda.

Unfortunately, with the unpopularity of his current bill, Obama is going back on his word and instructing Pelosi and Reed to ram the bill through in a rare procedure called reconciliation (aka, the "nuclear option") that is only supposed to be used for passing budgets.

Along with every single Republican, many Democrats in the senate are uncomfortable with this abuse of procedure. Senator Robert Byrd, a far-from-conservative Democrat who was involved in creating the reconciliation process in 1974 had this to say:
I oppose using the budget reconciliation process to pass the health care reform and climate change legislation. Such a proposal would violate the intent and spirit of the budget process, and do serious injury to the Constitutional role of the Senate.

As one of the authors of the reconciliation process, I can tell you that the ironclad parliamentary procedures it authorizes were never intended for this purpose. Reconciliation was intended to adjust revenue and spending levels in order to reduce deficits. It was not designed to cut taxes. It was not designed to create a new climate and energy regime, and certainly not to restructure the entire health care system.

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