Reconciliation and the Filibuster

Flickr/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/igreeneye/171284842/">Robin Green Eye</a> (<a href="http://www.creativecommons.org">Creative Commons</a>).

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An acquaintance of mine who works on the Hill had this as his away message recently:

Ok Republicans, how about we agree not to use reconciliation, and you agree not to filibuster?

It’s a good point. The media tends to treat reconciliation, the process Democrats may use to pass “fixes” to the Senate health care reform bill by majority vote, as a “controversial” process. Republicans have been describing reconciliation as basically a parliamentary “trick.” It’s true that reconciliation isn’t in the Constitution—it was created in the 1970s. But the filibuster, which creates a sixty-vote requirement to end debate in the Senate, isn’t in the Constitution either.

Coverage of the Democrats’ pursuit of reconciliation should note that, absent Republicans’ use of the filibuster, Democrats would be highly unlikely to use reconciliation. They wouldn’t need to: if the GOP doesn’t filibuster, bills can pass the Senate by a simple majority, as the framers intended. And Republicans who criticize the Democrats for pursuing reconciliation should be asked whether they really think the Dems would be using it if the GOP didn’t plan to filibuster.

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