The reconciliation option explained, again
Now their plan is to have the House pass the Senate bill, and then use reconciliation to patch up the bill. That means enacting a handful of relatively modest changes to the Senate bill, changes that would be budget related. This would not be some unprecedented use of reconciliation. As uses of reconciliation go, it would actually be quite minor, applying small changes to a health care bill that’s already been passed.
Last week David Gibson called attention to reporting at NPR about past occasions when the reconciliation process has been used on issues related to health care. Valuable for putting the discussion in perspective. But before the conversation can absorb that level of detail, it has to begin with a basic understanding of what is actually being proposed.
The GOP has been working hard to obscure that understanding. For example, John McCain, in last week’s “health-care reform summit,” was willing to feign moral outrage at the suggestion that the Democrats are considering resorting to Trent Lott’s “nuclear option,” although he knows perfectly well that’s not the case. Why? Because the GOP does not want Obama and the Democrats to succeed in passing health-care reform. This is not advanced political theory; it’s basic common sense. But rather than just saying “We want Obama to fail,” Limbaugh-style, they have to finesse it into something that sounds noble, like “We are standing firm against legislative abuse.” It’s understandable that they would be taking this approach. But there’s really no excuse for reporters to be confused by it. Their job is to know what’s actually true and explain it to their audience. Right?
Yet Chait’s most recent post on the subject was occasioned by an article at Politico that gets the “reconciliation” question wrong, again — and that in an attempt to summarize a conversation on television devoted to explaining exactly what they’re wrong about. Fact-checking is not Politico’s strength, but when they even get their stenography wrong, you have to wonder what exactly their strengths might be.
Update: The Columbia Journalism Review “Campaign Desk” blog takes note of Politico’s lousy reporting. They observe that Time’s Mark Halperin passed on Politico’s distortion — Sen. Conrad was trying to explain that “passing the whole bill” via reconciliation wasn’t on the table; their reports suggested that he was personally rejecting the idea. Greg Marx of CJR explains:
Whether “comprehensive health care reform” can be passed through reconciliation is at the moment an academic debate, because both houses of Congress have already passed comprehensive reform.