The “reconciliation” argument is for the Byrds

Democrats want Americans to think they’ve got health care/insurance reform in the bag. When everything started to fall apart, they pulled the reconciliation procedural technique out of their back pockets and waived it in front of the grasping (gasping!) media. Today, for example, CNN popped up this bit of wisdom:

Ironically, his [Kennedy’s] death might bring about a change of tactics that would help reach the goal he was unable to achieve in life, one veteran political analyst says.

“Kennedy’s departure may in fact increase the chances that we get a more sweeping health care bill,” American Enterprise Institute analyst Norman Ornstein recently told CNN.

As a result, Ornstein argued, Democratic leaders may now try to short-circuit the traditional Senate legislative process by passing a more partisan bill through an obscure tactic known as reconciliation, a type of budget maneuver that requires only a simple majority — 51 votes — to pass.

The media, as usual, isn’t doing their homework on this procedure.

I found a great description on reconciliation from Keith Hennessey. It’s the first time I heard of the Byrd rule. Here’s Hennessey’s summary from his second post on reconciliation:

His problem is the Byrd rule. Any one Senator (presumably a Republican who opposes the bill) can surgically use the Byrd rule to remove sections of the bill. Senator Reid will need 60 votes to defeat each of these attempts, and there could be a lot of them. If Reid’s coalition is shy of 60 votes, the bill could end up being Swiss cheese by the end of the process and before Senate passage. The reconciliation bill that passes the Senate could contain enormous gaps from provisions stricken by skillful use of the Byrd rule.

From what I’ve read, the objection is a point of order and not debatable. An objection automatically requires the 60 votes to pass the item into the bill.

No more sweeping reform.

As I mentioned, the threat of reconciliation is media fodder, not real news. I suspect that’s why you aren’t hearing much Republican pushback on the idea.

Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia authored the rule in 1985 and it passed when Republicans held the Senate and Democrats had the House. Ronald Reagan was president. Byrd, now 91, will find the useful restrictions labored against his own party’s goals this time.


  1. Creative title, Cindy. Are you a strict Constitutionalists?