Saturday, February 6, 2010

More Reconciliation Nonsense

Via Steve Benen, Politico says about a White House meeting with Congressional Dem leaders on Thursday:
Perhaps more interesting was the discussion about whether Dems should try to pass reform using reconciliation. There is a concern that the maneuver will be viewed by the public as an attempt to change the rules mid-game, which could hurt Democrats politically, the source said.
The Politico story doesn't explain exactly what the context of this might have been, but Benen gets it exactly right: "It's hard to overstate how foolish this is." 

Let's see: first of all, there's nothing actually wrong with using reconciliation.  Republicans might next compain that it's wrong to pass bills in an election year, or at night (oh, they've done that one), or on days ending with a "y"...that Republicans might complain about legitimate procedures is a very bad reason to not use those procedures.

Second, for what it's worth, reconciliation wouldn't be changing the rules; reconciliation instructions were included in the budget months ago.

Third, right or wrong, the Democrats will be using reconciliation for the foreseeable future if they want to pass anything (unless they "change the rules mid-game" by eliminating the filibuster).

Fourth...this will take a bit.  Ezra Klein has been using John Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse's Stealth Democracy to argue that the process of legislating is probably going to make the legislators and the bills unpopular, just because people hate hearing about process and conflict, and legislating necessarily involves process and conflict (although see John Sides for a little perspective).  But passing the bill turns that around: once the bill is signed, then Democrats can talk about substance, and if the Republicans want to complain about procedure, then they'll be the ones who are hurt by that effect. 

Fifth and last: they aren't going to be using reconciliation to pass health care reform, anyway.  They'll be using reconciliation to improve health care reform.  Pass and patch (or, better, pass then patch).

Basically, if that's what Congressional leaders or the White House really think...well, I'm thinking of a word that wouldn't make Sarah Palin very happy.

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