What is Reconciliation?
Reconciliation is a legislative maneuver used to get around the normal Senate rules. Normally any Senator is allowed to speak forever on any bill, amendment, nomination, or motion. This is known as a filibuster. To stop a filibuster takes 60 votes, which is why 60 seats is referred to as a super-majority.
Reconciliation is the other option for getting past a filibuster, and that is what the Democrats are considering for the ObamaCare bill. It only takes a majority to consider anything, as long as it is related to a budget item. This is where they will have at least a little trouble, anything not related to the budget gets thrown out and it takes 60 votes to bring it back.
But Health Care Isn’t a Budget Bill
This is true, so the Democrats have to be a little more clever. Their plan is to have the House pass the bill that the Senate already passed. Nobody really likes that bill though, so they will have a second bill amending the differences that the Democrat leaders want changed. The second bill will change things related to the budget and it will then get passed through reconciliation.
The Byrd Rule, named for Senator Robert Byrd was passed in 1985 and amended in 1990. It describes what reconciliation can and cannot be used for. The six things that reconciliation can’t be used for are as follows:
1. if it does not produce a change in outlays or revenues;
2. if it produces an outlay increase or revenue decrease when the instructed committee is not in compliance with its instructions;
3. if it is outside the jurisdiction of the committee that submitted the title or provision for inclusion in the reconciliation measure;
4. if it produces a change in outlays or revenues which is merely incidental to the non-budgetary components of the provision;
5. if it would increase the deficit for a fiscal year beyond those covered by the reconciliation measure, though the provisions in question may receive an exception if they in total in a Title of the measure net to a reduction in the deficit; and
6. if it recommends changes in Social Security.
The main effect of the Byrd rule has been to stop any provisions that would increase the deficit 10 years after reconciliation is used. That is why the Bush tax cuts are set to expire.
For some beautiful Democrat hypocrisy on reconciliation, check out this video.
Let me know what you think of reconciliation and the Democrats trying to use it to pass the current health care bill in the comments below.