Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Budget "Reconciliation" Process

You may start hearing about the "budget reconciliation" process soon. This process was developed by Senator Robert Byrd (D- WVa, and one of the greatest pork-barrel politicians of all time) in 1974. It is arcane, but basically it allows certain budget measures to pass the Senate on a simple majority vote (51 votes) rather than the 60 votes typically needed for a budget. It also limits debate to only 20 hours on the reconciliation bill. See explanation here on Wikipedia.

The process has been used fairly sparingly, and almost exclusively for proper budgetary matters, including forcing through the Bush II tax cuts.

Now President Obama wants to push two new policies through the Senate using this process.

Obama's Cap-and-Trade program will imposing massive taxes on pollution (really a massive tax increase on energy producers, especially coal- and fossil fuel-fired plants) which would generate between $1.3 trillion and $1.9 trillion in new taxes on all Americans who use energy (and who doesn't?).

The other policy for which this process is being contemplated is the President's "health care reform" package which would, in effect, nationalize our health care along European lines, much like Hillary Clinton proposed in the 1990s.

Robert Byrd himself, has this to say about it (my emphasis):

I am certain that putting health-care reform and climate change legislation on a freight train through Congress is an outrage that must be resisted.

Using the reconciliation process to enact major legislation prevents an open debate about critical issues in full view of the public. Health reform and climate change are issues that, in one way or another, touch every American family. Their resolution carries serious economic and emotional consequences.

The misuse of the arcane process of reconciliation -- a process intended for deficit reduction -- to enact substantive policy changes is an undemocratic disservice to our people and to the Senate's institutional role. Reconciliation, with its tight time limits, excludes debate and shuts down amendments. Essentially it says "take it or leave it" to the citizens who sent us here to solve problems, and it prevents members from representing their constituents' interests. Everyone likes to win, and the Obama administration, of course, wants victories. But tactics that ignore the means in pursuit of the ends are wrong when the outcome affects Americans' health and economic security. Let us inform the people, get their feedback, allow amendments to be considered and hear opposing views. That's the American way and the right way.

Congress passed the $800 Billion "economic stimulus" package without a single person having read the actual bill. Now they want to ram through a massive tax increase on all Americans (so much for no new taxes on the bottom 95%) and a wholesale restructuring of our health care system (so the same people who run the TSA, IRS, VA, and DMV get to run your health care), with essentially no debate.

The madness continues.


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  2. Dear RGJ/Dallas.... I put up your comment and then realized what your post name stood for. That's why it's gone now. Take your posts to DailyKos.