POLITICS
06/30/2010 01:43 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

RNC's Steele Calls Reconciliation A 'Parliamentary Trick'

EDITOR'S NOTE: The story below includes references to polling conducted by the firm Research 2000. The reliability and accuracy of Research 2000's polling has since been called into serious question by a report published in June 2010 by a group of statistical analysts.

Now that the Health Care Summit is behind us, we return our attention to the war on budget reconciliation, a commonly-used Senate procedure that bypasses the obstacle of constant filibustering and gets legislation through the Senate on a majority vote.

It's a pity that so many media professionals are willing to torpedo their own credibility by saying that reconciliation is some illegitimate form of governing, but that's their choice.

Alternatively, they could choose to confront the stupid things that people like Michael Steele say about reconciliation.

From Steele's statement on the Health Care Summit:

Even more disappointing, it now seems that the purpose of this so-called bipartisan summit wasn't actually bipartisan compromise but rather political theater to provide cover for reconciliation, a parliamentary trick the American people stand firmly against.

As to the substantive part of the claim, that reconciliation is a "parliamentary trick," it would seem that Steele represents a party of low-down, dirty parliamentary tricksters. Per Politifact:

On Nov. 14, 2008, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service put out a report on reconciliation bills between 1981 and 2009. There have been 22 of them, including three that were vetoed by President Bill Clinton. It's been used for health insurance portability (COBRA), nursing home standards, expanded Medicaid eligibility, increases in the earned income tax credit, welfare reform, start-up of the state Children's Health Insurance Program, major tax cuts and student aid reform.

While some have tallied the Republican vs. Democratic report card on reconciliation based on the president in power at the time, we think it makes more sense to look at the party in power in Congress when the reconciliation procedure was initiated.

By our count, eight of the reconciliation bills were initiated by a Democratic-controlled Congress. The rest, 14, were done by a Republican-controlled Congress.

As for the argument that the public is opposed to budget reconciliation, Brian Beutler reports that this is not entirely true, either:

Recent polling suggests that a small majority of Americans don't want Democrats to invoke the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process to fix and finish health care reform. But is it the majority-rule vote they oppose? Or is it the underlying health care bill?

A new poll by the firm Research 2000--commissioned by the advocacy groups Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, and Credo--suggests it's the latter. After describing what reconciliation is, the survey asked "If the Senate passes a health care reform bill that you consider to be beneficial to your family, would you object to the Senate's use of 'reconciliation' rules to pass that bill with a majority vote, or not?"

The public supports the passage of the bills they support, and don't have some weird philosophical aversion to budget reconciliation. Which makes sense, when you consider that most people learn in civics class that 51 votes are required in the Senate to pass legislation. Of course, the trick is to give the people what they want, and, as Beutler documents, the rub here is that people want a public option.

UPDATE: I didn't catch it before, but Greg Sargent has more on this.

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