POLITICS
04/22/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

VP's Economist: Budget Reconciliation Shouldn't Be Used For Major Legislation

The Vice President's chief economic adviser said Sunday that the White House agreed that "major" energy or health care policy should not be part of the crafting of the budget. But he wouldn't completely disavow the possibility including such policy in the reconciliation process, which would allow Democrats to bypass a filibuster.

"I don't think [the president] took it off the table," said Jared Bernstein. "I think it has to stay on the table but something we'd rather avoid."

Appearing on ABC's "This Week," Bernstein said that he agreed with Senate Budget Committee chair Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) that "major legislation" should not be included in the reconciliation process. Reconciliation presents a tempting vehicle to pass contentious law, because it is subject to an up-or-down vote as opposed to a 60-vote threshold for ending debate.

But, as Conrad noted earlier in the program, there were downsides to such a course of action. "I have said for weeks, I don't think it would be wise to use the reconciliation process to write major legislation," said the North Dakota Democrat. "That's not what reconciliation was designed for. It was designed for purely deficit reduction. And the problem is, if you try to use it here, not only does it deeply offend the minority, but more than that, it doesn't work very well."

Asked to respond, Bernstein stipulated that: "we agree with Senator Conrad on this point." He went on to say that the president was getting a "bad rap" for his budget, before being cut off by host George Stephanopoulos. While Bernstein tried later, in vein, to clarify his point, it was Conrad who got in the last word.

"Put it this way, it is not included in the budget that I will present to my colleagues," the Senator said. "I have said for weeks, I don't think it is the right way to write substantive legislation because if you get into the details and we won't do that here, it just doesn't work very well."