Reconciled To Partisanship - NBC 7 San Diego

Reconciled To Partisanship

Using parliamentary rules to push health-care reform guarantees partisan strife

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    Reconciled To Partisanship
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    Members of Congress were all smiles at a bipartisan White House forum on health care last month. But Democratic leadership plans to limit debate on health overhaul infuriates GOP.

    On the 99th day, what little bipartisanship existed in the Obama era basically died. 

    Democrats are going ahead with plans to include the parliamentary procedure of reconciliation to overhaul the nation's health-care system in the congressional budget resolution under consideration.   

    To the average observer, this doesn't register as too important -- more obscure political rule-making coming out of Washington, D.C.  But this is actually a big deal.  The seemingly innocuous phrase "reconciliation" does exactly the opposite if you're in the minority party -- except resign you to the fact that you'll have even less influence on controversial legislation. 

    Reconciliation is procedure that limits both time for debate and the amount of amendments permitted to be introduced -- and permits the passage of certain legislation by majority-vote (meaning no use of the filibuster in the Senate).  These rules are supposed to be used primarily for budget-related issues -- not broader policy concerns.  The fact is, though, Republicans have used reconciliation to get passed controversial tax measures -- such as the Bush tax cuts (and even parts of the Contract with America back in the '90s).  However, at least in those cases, one could make the argument that tax policy is somewhat connected to the size and consideration of the budget. 

    Republicans think using reconciliation for health care overhaul isn't just a difference in degree -- it's a difference in kind.  And, from an administration that has made bipartisanship a watchword of its early days, it is actually an invitation to extreme partisan warfare from the opposition

    In the short-term, Democrats may see a political -- and policy -- victory down the road in getting a health-care prototype passed.  However, President Obama and Congress will guarantee themselves longer-lasting headaches from an infuriated GOP.  The Republicans might not be able to block health-care reform under reconciliation rules -- but they can sure create a lot of trouble on other matters.

    Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots.