I find the caution on the part of the Democrats to be sad and the hypocrisy on the part of the Republicans par for the course.
Republicans are doing everything they can to convince the media and the public that using the budget reconciliation process to finish health care would be a grave crime against democracy.
But reconciliation is part of the Senate rules. And there’s perhaps no better person to make that point than Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)–the Senate Republicans’ top budget guy–who vociferously defended the use of reconciliation when his party tried to use it in 2005 to allow drilling in Alaska.
“The representation by the Senator from Massachusetts that somehow that this is outside the rules–to proceed within the rules–is a very unique view of the rules,” Gregg said on the Senate floor back when he was part of the majority. “We are using the rules of the Senate here, that’s what they are senator. Reconciliation is a rule of the Senate set up under the Budget Act. It has been used before for purposes exactly like this on numerous occasions.”
Gregg went on, “Is there something wrong with majority rules? I don’t think so.”
Unsurprisingly, Gregg feels differently about things these days. Last year he compared the majority-rules vote to “running over the minority, putting them in cement and throwing them in the Chicago River.”
Republicans have also advanced the meme that reconciliation amounts to the “nuclear option”–a term that came to fame when Republicans tried to change the Senate rules regarding the minority’s right to obstruct judicial nominations. But the “nuclear option” was a threat to change the rules. As Gregg pointed out very publicly, reconciliation is already part of the rules.