Healthcare and Budget Reconciliation…Again

The lead in an article in today’s New York Times (1/26/10) tells us that the White House and Congressional Democrats will soon decide “whether to use a procedural maneuver” to pass a healthcare bill with less than 60 votes in the Senate. That process is called budget reconciliation; it would be a complicated process, to be sure, and as the Times tells us “it carries numerous risks, including the possibility of a political backlash against what Republicans would be sure to cast as parliamentary trickery.”

Well yes, they could indeed say that–and reporters will type it into stories. As the article elaborates: “Republicans, however, have made clear that they will portray Mr. Obama and Democrats as trying to use a hardball tactic to win passage of the healthcare legislation.” That was followed by a quote from Republican Rep. John Boehner, who lambasted the administration’s “job-killing policies.”

Read further, though, and you come to this: “The mere mention of reconciliation infuriates many Republicans, even though they occasionally used the tactic when they were in the majority.”

Wait–what was that last part again? Republicans are infuriated by a tactic they used when they were in power? Isn’t that hypocrisy a little more important than boilerplate GOP complaints?

This article has a familiar feel. In fact, the problem here was the problem with another Times article eight months ago, written by Robert Pear–a co-author of today’s piece. As I pointed out then, Pear called reconciliation “obscure” and “high-risk,” before adding, almost as an aside: “The fast-track procedures have been used 19 times since 1980 to pass major legislation, including much of President Ronald Reaganâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s domestic policy agenda in 1981, welfare overhaul in 1996 and President George W. Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.”

There was little protest from the corporate media to passing tax cuts for the wealthy using reconciliation. Healthcare reform, for some reason, is treated differently.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.