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Posts Tagged ‘Reconciliation’

Dems Complete Nullification of Scott Brown’s Election Via “Unprecedented” Reconciliation Switch

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Senator Scott Brown (D-MA), who won a special election in late January 2010 on a platform of opposing Obamacare in the most liberal state in America, has seen his election nullified by Senate Democrats by the midstream switch to reconciliation

By a vote of 56-43, with three Democrats, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Sen. Mark Pryor and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), joined by all 41 Republicans, failing to put the breaks on a large package of changes to the existing law known as Obamacare.   Every vote taken on Obamacare in the past few weeks has had the same character: bipartisan opposition failing to stop the remaining majority of Democrats from passing the legislation – hardly what the average American would expect on the signature legislation of President Obama, as the media-created Obama Brand is one of a “bipartisan” “pragmatic” “centrist” leader.   Indeed, the only thing bipartisan about the legislation is the opposition to it from centrist Democrats and the entire Republican Party.

Obama and the Democrats had tried to avoid making any changes to the House reconciliation package, but the Senate Parliamentarian ruled some parts of it out of order under reconciliation rules, forcing the Senate Democrats to make some changes and  sending the entire reconciliation Obamacare package back to the House for a final, final vote tonight.   The Dems and GOP House members are going back and forth with short speeches in the House now.

It looks like the House will vote shortly to bring the Obamacare legislating to a close:

The Senate approved a package of fixes to the health care reform law Thursday, drawing to a close the chamber’s year-long effort to overhaul the nation’s insurance system.

But the work isn’t done quite yet.

The bill passed 56 to 43, with Vice President Joe Biden presiding over the chamber. Senate Republicans forced a pair of changes to the reconciliation bill overnight, sending it back to the House for a final vote later Thursday.

Democrats believe the minor changes – to language regarding Pell Grants for low-income students – won’t derail House passage, meaning that Democrats are set to finally conclude the legislative struggle needed to make health reform a reality.

As you can see from the prose above from Politico,the establishment media is in a state of near orgasm over the imminent final passage of the Obamacare package, as the average left wing journalist is overjoyed to “finally conclude the legislative struggle needed to make health reform a reality.” That is actually fairly tame compared to the NYT, who declares just now that

The NYT, in a moment of candor, admits that the procedural trickery engaged in by Senate Democrats was successful in avoiding the will of the American people as embodied by the election of Senator Scott Brown (D-MA) in January 2010 on a platform of explicit opposition to Obamacare and a promise to be the “41st vote” to stop Obamacare in the Senate.

The Senate action appeared to be the penultimate step in a series of intricate legislation maneuvers that Democrats were forced to undertake after a Republican, Scott Brown, won a special Senate election in Massachusetts on Jan. 19, stripping Senate Democrats of the 60th vote that they needed to surmount Republican filibusters.

In a sane world, the “paper of record” in the United States would be troubled by Congress’s manipulation of its procedural rules to avoid the electoral will of the American people, but alas, the NYT has no such concerns, as in the very next paragraph the Times slips into its well-worn role as fawning Obama cheerleader, praising him for engineering the entire process of “intricate legislative maneuvers that the Democrats were forced to take” to subvert the will of the American people as expressed by the election of Scott Brown:

Many Democrats credited the president with having saved the legislation from the brink of collapse. He held a remarkable, day-long televised forum with Congressional leaders of both parties, lobbied for the overhaul in campaign-style rallies around the country, attacked abuses by private insurance companies, and repeatedly told the stories of everyday Americans who had suffered in the existing health system.

The Times appears to be a cheap date regarding the lavish praise it tosses out above for Obama, as everything they list as Obama’s “remarkable” actions are just standard, scripted political events that require little by way of unique or “unprecedented” skill sets to accomplish. It is odd for the “paper of record” to so explicitly celebrate the use of “intricate legislative maneuvers” and staged, scripted political events by DC officials to avoid the logical result of recent election results.

Indeed, the fact that the Democrats did indeed manage to make history by switching, midstream, from a bill passed via regular order to a reconciliation bill, would have merited a mention from the “paper of record”. However, the NYT fails to note this “unprecedented” legislative trickery by Obama and the Demcrats, but it was noted by ardently ideological leftist Lawrence O’Donnell.  The entire uncut O’Donnell appearance on Morning Joe on March 12, 2010 can be seen here.  O’Donnell notes the “unprecedented” nature of the Democrats’ plan to switch gears after Scott Brown’s Senate victory and pursue reconciliation to pass Obamacare:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Will Democrats get health care passed?

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: I’m going to say what I’ve said all along in my humble approach to this subject.  I, having worked on this kind of legislation on the Senate floor, trying to get it passed, and in committee.  I do not see how they can do this.  Now, and part of that is because it’s never been done before. And they have moved into a legislative territory that has never previously existed.  The Republicans have not been very smart about trying to describe this. It’s difficult to describe.  But this is unprecedented, using reconciliation this way. Because what they’ve done, is that they’ve abandoned a bill in mid-conference. The Senate passed a bill, the House passed a bill. They were in mid-conference negotiating this bill, in conference, and they said it’s going to be impossible for us to pass it now because of Scott Brown, so we’re going to abandon conferencing this bill and move over to another legislative vehicle, called reconciliation.  To handle something you’ve already been legislating another way, now, that’s never occurred before.

SCARBOROUGH: That’s never happened?

O’DONNELL: Never, never, never.

When the history books are written about the passage of Obamacare, perhaps this unprecedented legislative trickery, now completed, by Democrats to accomplish a nullification of the election of Scott Brown (R-MA) will garner more attention.  For now, the establishment media is sure to continue in near orgasm mode, with lavish praise for media hero Obama and his merry band of Democrats.

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Flash: Dems Reject GOP “No Viagra for Sex Offenders” Amendment to Obamacare

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Senate Democrats, led by Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Have Just Now Rejected a Ban on Federal Funding of Viagra for Sex Offenders via Obamacare

In a Senate Obamacare vote that is certain to end up in 2010 GOP campaign commercials, Senate Democrats rejected a GOP amendment to Obamacare that would have banned the use of federal money to pay for Viagra for sex offenders:

Democrats killed an amendment by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn to prevent the newly created insurance exchanges from using federal money to cover Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs for rapists, pedophiles and other sex offenders. The amendment failed 57-42

“The vast majority of Americans don’t want their taxpayer dollars paying for this kind of drug for those kind of people,” Coburn said.

Democratic Sen. Max Baucus urged his colleagues to defeat the amendment.

“This is a serious bill. This is a serious debate. The amendment offered by the senator from Oklahoma makes a mockery of the Senate, the debate and the American people. It is not a serious amendment. It is a crass political stunt aimed at making 30-second commercials, not public policy,” he said.

The Democrats appear intent upon ramming through the entirety of the separate House reconciliation amendment to Obamacare without any changes, including the maintenance of the use of federal funds to pay for Viagra or other erectile dysfunction drugs for sex offenders.  Considering the fact that a substantial majority of Americans, at least 62%, agree that the GOP should continue to fight Obama and the Democrats to obtain changes to the Obamacare package, the present Democratic strategy of “no amendments” may end up backfiring.

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Gibbs Fibs re Slaughter Solution, Claims House Will “Pass the Underlying Senate Bill” and Then Take up Fixes

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Did White House Spokeman Robert Gibbs Lie this morning on CBS's Face the Nation When He Claimed the House will pass the Senate bill and President Sign it Before any "Corrective" Legislation is Passed by the House?

Despite White House and Congressional Democratic leadership support for a single, final House vote on Obamacare, in an incredible display of intentionally misleading statements by a federal official, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs today declared that the House will pass the “underlying Senate bill” next week, and that it will be signed by the President and then “corrective” bills will be passed through the House and Senate to “fix” the language of the Senate bill.   Gibbs even explicitly murmured “right” and “yes, sir” and nodded as CBS’s Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer stated his understanding that the House must pass and President must sign the Senate bill before any “fixes” could be passed:

BOB SCHIEFFER: A– as I understand it, and– and the parliamentarians seemed to have ruled that the House is going to have to pass the bill that the Senate passed.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And then the President is going to have to sign that before the House votes on this so-called reconciliation package. It’s going to correct all those things they don’t like in
this Senate bill.

Gibbs then continues after Schieffer pushed Gibbs on whether the Senate actually pass the “corrections” to the then-passed Obamacare:

ROBERT GIBBS: Yeah. Well, again, we’ve– we’ve worked with leaders in the Senate. We’ve talked to members of the Senate. The President has. And, look, members of the House, the President, and members of the Senate want to see some of those corrections made in– in that legislation. I– I think this is going to happen. Again, I think the House will have passed the Senate bill a week from today. We’ll be working now next on getting those corrections passed by both the House and the Senate. And we’ll have health care reform in this country.

These statements were made by the top White House spokesman despite actions of the White House and Congressional Democrats, who are planning to “deem” the Senate bill passed via a parliamentary trick known as the “Slaughter Solution,” named after the House Democrat who is the author of this unprecedented procedure, House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY). Obama worshipper and Newsweek journalist David Stone explains the Democratic trickery to avoid an actual up or down vote on the Senate bill in the House:

In a perfect case study of how dramatic Washington can get on a Friday afternoon, attention on health care appears to have shifted from when the final vote will be (next week?) to the possibility of a new parliamentary procedure to greenlight the bill. At issue is what’s being dubbed the “Slaughter solution,” which, in a roundabout way, would let the House pass the Senate bill without actually voting on it.

Here’s how: Rep. Louise Slaughter is chair of the House Rules committee, and as such, figured out that the House could momentarily change its rules to say that the House doesn’t need to pass the Senate bill since both bills are pretty similar anyway (in that they’re about the same subject). That way, Democratic members reticent about voting for the Senate bill technically wouldn’t have to be on record voting for it. They would just have to vote not to stop it from passing. It’s effectively a shift from active passage of the bill to passive. Then, after this rule passed, the Senate bill would go straight to the president, he would sign it, and then both chambers would start working on a few fixes through reconciliation.

The Obamaphile journalist David Stone concludes it is ludicrous to think the Democrats would actually do this, despite Democratic House Rules Chairwoman Slaughter’s explicit plans to do so, as reported by the non-partisan Congress Daily:

House Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter is prepping to help usher the healthcare overhaul through the House and potentially avoid a direct vote on the Senate overhaul bill, the chairwoman said Tuesday.

Slaughter is weighing preparing a rule that would consider the Senate bill passed once the House approves a corrections bill that would make changes to the Senate version.

Even left wing MSNBC journalist and former longtime Capitol Hill staffer (and veteran of the Hillarycare battle) Lawrence O’Donnell noted that the “Slaughter Solution” of “deeming” the Senate bill passed via rule-based trickery and then only holding a vote on the “fixes” to the Senate bill is an “unprecedented” maneuver in the legislative history of the United States that attempts to “amend a ghost” of an non-passed bill.  The entire uncut O’Donnell appearance on Morning Joe on March 12, 2010 can be seen here.  O’Donnell notes the “unprecedented” nature of the Democrats’ plan to switch gears after Scott Brown’s Senate victory and pursue reconciliation to pass Obamacare:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Will Democrats get health care passed?

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: I’m going to say what I’ve said all along in my humble approach to this subject.  I, having worked on this kind of legislation on the Senate floor, trying to get it passed, and in committee.  I do not see how they can do this.  Now, and part of that is because it’s never been done before. And they have moved into a legislative territory that has never previously existed.  The Republicans have not been very smart about trying to describe this. It’s difficult to describe.  But this is unprecedented, using reconciliation this way. Because what they’ve done, is that they’ve abandoned a bill in mid-conference. The Senate passed a bill, the House passed a bill. They were in mid-conference negotiating this bill, in conference, and they said it’s going to be impossible for us to pass it now because of Scott Brown, so we’re going to abandon conferencing this bill and move over to another legislative vehicle, called reconciliation.  To handle something you’ve already been legislating another way, now, that’s never occurred before.

SCARBOROUGH: That’s never happened?

O’DONNELL: Never, never, never.

Such emphatic condemnation of the Democratic endgame strategy to pursue the “amend the ghost” trickery in the House and reconciliation in the Senate to pass Obamacare from an explicitly left wing ideologue like O’Donnell is a bright red flag for centrists and independents. Perhaps Newsweek’s David Stone is correct in saying that it is “hard to imagine a scenario in which such a process would actually fly.Left-leaning The Hill concurs that the “Slaughter Solution” is a “sneaky, slimy sleight-of-hand” and that no one will be “fooled by this.”

The talking points distributed by House Democratic leadership on Friday, which Robert Gibbs and the White House were undoubtedly privy to and approved of prior to their release, make it clear that “Slaughter Solution” is part of the endgame plan to pass Obamacare:

The Van Hollen memo also advised members to avoid talking about the process.

“At this point, we have to just rip the band-aid off and have a vote — up or down; yes or no? Things like reconciliation and what the rules committee does is INSIDE BASEBALL,” the memo says. “People who try and start arguments about process on this are almost always against the actual policy substance too, often times for purely political reasons.”

Leadership expects a CBO score on the reconciliation package by today or Monday. No decisions have been made on how the final process will unfold on the House floor, the memo says. So it appears Democrats are still grappling with whether they can use the process to pass the Senate bill without voting directly on the bill. Many Democrats view the Senate bill’s deals and policies as a toxic political mix that they would rather not endorse without first making changes to it.

Tellingly, Gibbs concludes his interview by stating that only one House vote will be required, impliedly accepting the “Slaughter Solution” and explicitly contradicting his earlier agreement with Schieffer that two House votes would be required, one to pass the Senate bill and another to pass the “corrections” to the Senate bill:

ROBERT GIBBS: –I– I do think this is the– I do think this is the climactic week for health care reform. And like I said I– I think whoever you interview just this time next week, you won’t be talking about a proposal in the House. You’ll be talking about the House having passed that proposal and us being a signature away from health care reform in this country.

As this is the “climatic week for health care reform” it is truly unfortunate that procedural trickery such as the “Slaughter Solution” and reconciliation are being pursued by the Democrats on such an important piece of legislation, even in the face of criticism by left-leaning journalist allies like Newsweek, MSNBC and The Hill.   Unfortunately, the NYT and Washington Post have not touched the “Slaughter Solution” controversy to date, and the major networks are ignoring it as well, so outright misrepresentations like Gibbs’s claims on Face the Nation today will probably continue to slide under the radar until the deed is done as planned by the Obama Administration and the Congressional Democratic leadership.

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Obama 2007: Vote for Me over Hillary Because I Won’t Use Reconciliation on Health Care

Monday, March 8th, 2010

In 2007, Barack Obama argued that primary voters should support him because he would not use reconciliation on health care reform, but Hillary Clinton is.

A little-known interview in 2007 by Barack Obama supplies some fresh evidence of President Barack Obama’s shifting views on the use of reconciliation to pass comprehensive health care reform. Now, in 2010, the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats have settled upon a plan to pass Obamacare via the use of reconciliation in the Senate after a majority vote in the House. Back in 2007, candidate Obama actually used the issue of the use of reconciliation on health care reform as an example of what Hillary Clinton would do but Obama would not, concluding that folks should vote for Obama for this reason:

Obama was talking about the differences between himself and his then-opponent in the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton.

I think it is legitimate at this point for me to explain very clearly to the American people why I think I will be a better president than Hillary Clinton, and to draw contrasts,” Obama said.

“But that’s very different from this sort of slash-and-burn politics that I think we’ve become accustomed to. Look, part of the reason I’m running is not just to be president, it’s to get things done. And what I believe that means is we’ve got to break out of what I call, sort of, the 50-plus-one pattern of presidential politics. Which is, you have nasty primaries where everybody’s disheartened. Then you divide the country 45 percent on one side, 45 percent on the other, 10 percent in the middle — all of them apparently live in Florida and Ohio — and battle it out. And maybe you eke out a victory of 50-plus-one, but you can’t govern. I mean, you get Air Force One, there are a lot of nice perks to being president, but you can’t deliver on health care. We’re not going to pass universal health care with a 50-plus-one strategy. We’re not going to have a serious bold energy policy of the sort I proposed yesterday unless you build a working majority. And part of the task of building that working majority is to get people to believe in our government, that it can work, that it’s based on common sense, that it’s not just sort of scoring political points.

The interviewer then asked, “So is your answer to ‘Why I will be a better president than Hillary Clinton,’ is your answer that she’ll be a 50-plus-one president and you won’t?”

“Yes,” Obama said.

Even left-leaning Polifact, who collected the above Obama quotes in the wake of Glenn Beck’s partial airing of them last week, states that Obama has committed a complete flip flop on the use of reconciliation:

Obama may argue that he has tried to include Republicans, but that they have simply been unwilling to play ball. He also has noted that the first iteration of the health care bill passed the Senate with a supermajority. But the fact is, the health care bill is not getting any Republican support, and Obama is pressing forward with a plan to push through a health care plan without them, and without a 60-vote majority.

And we think the last quote, from 2005, is even more on point. Yes, Obama was speaking about the “nuclear option” as it related to judicial nominees, and not a reconciliation bill. But the principles are largely the same, especially as Obama noted that having simple “majoritarian” power in the Senate is “just not what the Founders intended.” And we think that’s enough to warrant a Full Flop.

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Mainstream Media Consensus on Health Care Summit: Tie Goes to the GOP

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

President Barack Obama Had a Tough Day Today at his Health Care Summit as the GOP had the "best day they've had in years"

The same journalists who cheered Candidate Barack Obama on to victory in 2008 and engaged in mainly fawning coverage of the Obama Presidency in 2009 tonight appear to be turning on their hero, declaring that today’s summit was either a win for the the GOP or at best for Obama it was a tie, and a tie goes to the GOP because Obama needed a big win to build momentum for the monumental task ahead of pushing Obamacare through the House and Senate once again. Politico’s Obama-loving writer Glenn Thrush outlines the building media narrative:

Seven thick hours of substantive policy discussion, preening and low-grade political clashes had Hill staffers nodding at their desks, policy mavens buzzing — and participants declaring the marathon C-SPAN-broadcast session a draw.

But in this case, the tie goes to Republicans, according to operatives on both sides of the aisle — because the stakes were so much higher for Democrats trying to build their case for ramming reform through using a 51-vote reconciliation tactic.

“I think it was a draw, which was a Republican win,” said Democratic political consultant Dan Gerstein. “The Republican tone was just right: a respectful, substantive disagreement, very disciplined and consistent in their message.”

The White House and Hill Democrats had hoped congressional Republicans would prove themselves to be unruly, unreasonable and incapable of a serious policy discussion — “the face of gridlock,” as one Democrat put it hours before the summit.

Obama clearly failed to gain a clear advantage over the GOP, like he did a few weeks ago at the House Republican retreat in Baltimore. Thrush also notes that the Democrats tended to talk about stories they’ve heard on the campaign trail about health experiences, as opposed to actually defending the legislation they were there to discuss:

Obama wasn’t able to dominate them like he did last month during an encounter with House Republicans in Baltimore, when he delivered zingers high above the GOP from a conference room podium.

All of this makes it tougher — though not impossible — for Democrats to make the case that they need to abandon talks with the GOP and immediately proceed with a plan to ram health reform through the Senate using a 50-vote reconciliation tactic.

“He didn’t create the predicate for passing this through reconciliation,” said a senior Senate GOP staffer.

That’s not to say the gathering of 40 House and Senate members wasn’t a shaggy, bumptious, sometimes testy affair. Democrats were less eager to discuss legislative process than present case stories of constituents denied coverage by health insurers — often without explaining how their own bill would benefit those people.

Chris Cilizza of the Washington Post, also a well-known Obama sycophant, managed to rationalize the naming of Obama as his #2 winner on his winners/losers list, despite the fact that the entire Obama strategy, to make the GOP look clueless and obstructive so as to justify the use of reconciliation, completely failed today. Of course, Cilizza did not address the overall strategy coming into the summit nor the effect of the summit on that strategy in his article, instead choosing a simplistic winners/losers formula so as to avoid what he must know is the truth – today was a very bad day for President Barack Obama. Indeed, Cilizza seemed more interested in whether CSPAN or the cable networks “won” today than the effect of the summit on Obamacare’s chances of passage.

Across the cable and network dial, and in the new media on the internet, even strongly left-leaning folks admitted that today was a total bust for the Obama Reconciliation Strategy and a veritable disaster for the Democrats who are facing reelection in 2010. For instance, leftist John Dickerson at Slate, while also in denial regarding the disaster today was for his hero Obama personally, admits in his writing that the GOP looked very good and fence-sitting Democrats facing the 2010 electoral buzzsaw saw nothing that would encourage them to jump off the cliff with Obama on Obamacare:

Republicans came out ahead for the same reason: They did not look like hell-bent obstructionists….

This is why it wasn’t a good day for congressional Democrats. According to strategists involved in 2010 races, fence-sitting Democrats needed to see Obama change the political dynamic. He needed to show how health care reform could be defended and how Republicans could be brought low. He did neither. White House aides and the president himself said he was going to press Republicans for how their plans would work, but he did that only twice—and mildly. There was no put-up-or-shut-up moment.

Yet another Obama-worshipping journalist, Marc Ambinder, again couldn’t bring himself to admit the GOP beat Obama today – instead also calling the summit a tie, and adding that “that’s good news for the GOP” in his report for CBS News:

The political world watched the proceedings at Blair House looking for theatre: instead, a policy fight broke out. This time, both sides came armored, and there was no referee. It was a wash — and the tie goes to the Republicans.

The key question on the table was not whether Democrats and Republicans could come up with ways to compromise; it was whether the White House could move public opinion in a way that helps Nancy Pelosi get the votes she needs to pass the Senate bill in the House. That’s unlikely.

All told, the old halcyon days of “Hope and Change” in 2008, when “journalists” like Thrush, Ambinder, Cilizza and Dickerson could freely cheer lead for their hero Obama without any concern about appearing in the tank for Obama because the entire media was providing Obama with unerringly positive coverage at that time, are gone. Now, with Obama on year two and his signature initiative Obamacare on life support, these Obama sycophants are now being forced to admit that the momentum behind Obama’s agenda has completely collapsed. The failure of Obama to produce a GOP “gotcha” moment for his crew of “journalist” sycophants to write about tonight, combined with the steady and professional GOP performance, could be the death blow to the “last best chance” to pass Obamacare via reconciliation. An objective journalist would be outlining those possibilities in their piece tonight, it is unfortunate the American media is so enamored with Obama and the Democratic establishment that they have to be pulled kicking and screaming by indisputable facts, such as the GOP’s clear win in today’s summit, into reporting anything even approaching the facts on the ground.

Other, less biased, mainstream media sources stated with absolute clarity that today was an indisputable victory for the GOP, not least of which was CNN’s centrist analyst David Gergen, who blunted declared that for the GOP, this was “the best day they’ve had in years.” Gergen went on to explain that the GOP got tons of airtime today to show the public they have solutions in health care and are not obstructionist, perhaps undercutting the Democratic talking point of “Party of No” to some degree. Somehow even James Carville managed to praise the performance of GOP Senators today, and Politico also chimed in on the afternoon session by noting that “by the afternoon, however, both sides took a more substantive approach that played to the Republicans’ benefit, given Democratic attempts to portray them as unreasonable and partisan.”

While we quoted Gergen extensively already, this David Gergen quote from the halftime proceedings perhaps best sums up the total disaster today was for Obama and the Democrats:

CNN’s DAVID GERGEN: “The folks in the White House just must be kicking themselves right now. They thought that coming out of Baltimore when the President went in and was mesmerizing and commanding in front of the House Republicans that he could do that again here today. That would revive health care and would change the public opinion about their health care bill and they can go on to victory. Just the opposite has happened.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)

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Obama 2005: Condemns Reconciliation Use as “Absolute Power” and “Not What the Founders Intended.”

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

President Barack Obama and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Had a Very Different View the Use of Reconciliation in 2005

Explosive new video has surfaced today that shows President Barack Obama, and many other prominent Democrats condemning the Bush Administration in 2005 for Bush’s attempt to use reconciliation to push through judicial nominees.  These 2005 quotes are particularly jarring when compared to the 2010 quotes from the same folks about Obama’s attempt to use reconciliation to pass Obamacare. Senator Barack Obama, on 4/26/05, in response to a question on the “nuclear option” (how Democrats in 2005 characterized then-President Bush’s attempts to use reconciliation):

“He hasn’t gotten his way…uh…and that is now prompting a change in the Senate rules that really I think would change the character of the Senate uh forever and uh what I worry about would be that you essentially have still two chambers the House and the Senate but you have simply majoritarian uh absolute power on on either side and that’s just not what the Founders intended.”

Present Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid weighs in as well back on 5/18/2005, noting that

“The right to extend a debate is never more important than when one party controls both Congress and the White House. The filibuster serves as a check, on power, preserve our limited government.”

Considering Leader Reid’s comments yesterday that the Republicans should “stop crying” about Obama’s planned use of reconciliation to push through Obamacare, Reid’s comments in 2005 are particularly explosive in terms of today’s health care debate. Present Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also chimed in with a verbal barrage on 5/23/2005 against then President Bush about controlling himself and calling upon her GOP collegues to go to Bush and tell him reconciliation is “a bridge to far” and that “you have to restrain yourself Mr. President.” One could argue, in aftermath of the shocking GOP upset win in the Massachusetts Senate race in January 2010 by a candidate, Scott Brown, who explicitly campaigned against passing Obamacare, that a Senator from the Democratic side should have the type of conversation with the President as suggested by Secretary Clinton back in 2005.

Vice President Joe Biden weighed in with his familiar bombastic rhetoric in 2005 as well, stating that “this nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power…it is a fundamental power grab” and further opining in prayer that “”I pray God when the Democrats take back control we don’t make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.” Of course, Biden now supports the Obama Administration’s plan to use reconciliation to push Obamacare through the Senate with only 50 votes (and his tie breaking vote).

A common theme of all of the Democratic Senators remarks in 2005 revolves around the destruction of the “Republic” and the elimination of the “checks and balances” intended by the Founders that would ensue should President Bush succeed in his effort to use reconciliation. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who is now leading the Senate effort to pass a public option through reconciliation, had this to say on 5/18/2005 about Bush’s attempt to use reconciliation:

“We are on the precipice of a crisis, a constitutional crisis. The checks and balances which have been at the core of this Republic are about to be evaporated by the nuclear option. The checks and balances which say if you get 51% of the vote, you dont get your way 100% of the time. It is amazing its almost a temper tantrum.”

Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Ca.) also condemned Bush for attempting to use reconciliation, stating if used reconciliation would mean “the Senate becomes ipso facto, the House of Representatives” while also showing her more dire concern is the use of reconciliation for substantive legislation, not judicial nominees, by stating Bush will start with reconciliation for judicial nominees but then move on to its use in legislation. Perhaps most bombastic of all in 2005 regarding Bush’s attempted use of reconciliation is Democratic Senator Max Baucus (D-ND), who solemnly stated that “[t]his is the way that Democracy ends not with a bomb, but with a gavel”. Of course, Bush did not actually use reconciliation to get his nominees through the Senate as a bipartisan deal was reached.

Incredibly, each and every one of the above-quoted then-Democratic Senators, Obama, Reid, Biden, Clinton, Schumer, Baucus and Feinstein, are in favor of the use of reconciliation to pass Obamacare, with many of those same folks actively leading the effort, including now-President Obama. Perhaps an enterprising reporter could ask Harry Reid to explain if this comment also applies to Democratic Administrations like Obama’s: “No, we’re not going to follow the Senate rules…no…because of the arrogance of power of this Republican Administration.” Finally, Harry Reid posts in April 2005 on his Senate website an explanation as to why the improper use of reconciliation must be rejected and the claim to entitlement to an “up or down vote” is suspect:

For the past several months, the Senate has operated under a nuclear cloud. As a result of the Senate’s decision to reject a small number of President Bush’s judicial nominees, the Republican majority has threatened to break the Senate rules, violate over 200 years of Senate tradition and impair the ability of Democrats and Republicans to work together on issues of real concern to the American people.

It is astounding that Republicans would precipitate this destructive confrontation, especially since this President has a better confirmation rate than any of his recent predecessors. The Senate has confirmed 205 of President Bush’s judicial candidates and turned back only ten, a 95% confirmation rate. Ten rejected judges – only seven of whom are currently before the Senate – does not seem reason enough for Republicans to break the Senate rules.

My Republican colleagues claim that nominees are entitled to an up-down vote. That claim ignores history, including recent history.

UPDATE: ABC’s Jake Tapper adds another Obama 2005 quote on reconciliation and the Framers of the Constitution:

At the National Press Club on April 26, 2005, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was asked about a move being discussed by Senate Republicans, then in control, to change the Senate rules so as to require a mere majority vote rather than the 60 votes necessary to end a potential filibuster.

“You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating it is, to make sure that there’s a broad consensus before the country moves forward,” then-Sen. Obama told the audience.

His remarks have garnered some attention in recent days given the current likelihood that Senate Democrats will next week use “reconciliation” rules, which require only a 51-vote majority, to pass health care reform legislation, bypassing the current Senate rules of requiring 60 votes to cut off a potential filibuster and proceed to a final vote.

The White House has been in recent days setting the table for use of reconciliation rules for health care reform.

UPDATE #2: American Spectator’s blog reprints the 2005 comments by the various Democratic Senators in full.

UPDATE #3: Thanks for the link, Welcome to Memeorandum readers, please take a look around and stay a while. A quick flashback to early February 2010, when President Obama and the new media left were in full attack mode about the evils of the filibuster. This excerpt supplies a stark contrast to the comments made by the left-leaning Democratic Senators quoted above in 2005 when Bush was trying to circumvent the Senate filibuster with Obama’s comments in bold:

The Filibuster Was Never a Good Idea

Yesterday, talking to Democratic Senators, the president offered some thoughts on the filibuster:

So the problem here you’ve got is an institution that increasingly is not adapted to the demands of a hugely competitive 21st century economy. I think the Senate in particular, the challenge that I gave to Republicans and I will continue to issue to Republicans is if you want to govern then you can’t just say no. It can’t just be about scoring points. There are multiple examples during the course of this year in which that’s been the case.

Look, I mentioned the filibuster record. We’ve had scores of pieces of legislation in which there was a filibuster, cloture had to be invoked, and then ended up passing 90 to 10, or 80 to 15. And what that indicates is a degree to which we’re just trying to gum up the works instead of getting business done.

I appreciate what the President is trying to do here and I agree with the spirit of his comments, but the history here is bad. There was no point in time when supermajority voting in the Senate was well-suited to the challenges of the time. Indeed, as David Mayhew has demonstrated it’s simply not the case that there was routine supermajority voting until the recent past. When FDR’s opponents were seeking to block court-packing and when LBJ was lining up support for Medicare, vote-counters assumed that a majority was needed to block initiatives.

The authentic tradition is of using the filibuster as an extraordinary technique for the specific purpose of maintaining white supremacy in the South. A Harding administration anti-lynching initiative fell prey to the filibuster back in the 20s. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the Civil Rights Act of 1960 both had to be largely gutted in order to surmount filibusters. And it was recollection of the filibuster’s specific role as a bastion of white supremacy that led to the bipartisan effort to reform the filibuster in 1975 when northern liberal Democrats teamed up with the Ford administration and many Republicans to cut the cloture threshold to 60.

The institution has always been pernicious, just as the malapportionment of the Senate has always been the result of a hardball political negotiation rather than expressing some underlying good idea about the design of political institutions. Part of what makes the filibuster a bad idea is that it’s viability depends on minority party restraint. But the nature of human psychology is to create a procedural downward spiral in which each time there’s a change of partisan control, the new minority steps-up its obstruction.

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Obama Reconciliation Strategy Rallies Moderate Democrats

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Democratic Senators are Rallying Around Obama's Health Plan and the Use of the Reconciliation Process

In the wake of the release of the 11 page Obama Health Plan, which clearly envisions the use of the parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation, moderate Democratic Senators who are on record opposing the use of reconciliation for Obamacare are now reversing themselves. Senators Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Ben Nelson (D-Ne.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who all previously stated their opposition to the reconciliation procedure, are signaling that their opposition to reconciliation is now waning. Additionally, some House Democrats who previously opposed the Senate bill are also softening their opposition. Both House and Senate Democrats appear both impressed by Obama’s release of his own plan as well as accepting the Obama Administration’s argument that a bad bill is better than no bill for Democratic electoral prospects in November 2010. Obama’s strategy to paint the GOP as obstructionists is also helping garner Democratic support for the use of reconciliation. Indeed, as Thursday’s health care summit approaches, the continual White House assertions of GOP intransigence on health care appear to be paying off by providing moderate Democrats political cover to abandon their prior anti-reconciliation stances.

Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown reports:

An idea that seemed toxic only weeks ago — using a parliamentary tactic to ram health reform through the Senate — is gaining acceptance among moderate Democrats who have resisted the strategy but now say GOP opposition may force their hands.

The implications of the subtle shift among this small group of centrist senators could mean the difference between success and failure for health care reform — giving Democrats a potential road map for passing a bill that had been left for dead after the Massachusetts Senate defeat.

That mood in the Senate was matched Tuesday by a growing momentum for President Barack Obama’s health care proposal in the House, where Democrats were beginning to coalesce around the view that passing a flawed bill is better than passing none at all.

These shifts couldn’t come at a better time for Obama ahead of Thursday’s health care summit. The White House has signaled he’s prepared to use reconciliation, which would require just 51 votes to pass health reform.

The comments also seemed to reflect the early soundings of a Democratic strategy for selling the public on the tactic, especially if no Republicans sign on to Obama’s plan after the summit: The GOP made us do it.

“Obviously, if the minority is just frustrating the process, that argues for taking steps to get the public’s business done,” said Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who was one of the leading voices against the procedure after the Massachusetts election, calling it “very ill-advised.”

“At the same time … Republicans would probably shut the place down, but you could argue they are doing that anyway,” Bayh said.

Bayh’s remarks Tuesday came a day after Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) cited Republican obstructionism as a reason why she could embrace the parliamentary maneuver to pass health care reform. Last month, she said she was leaning against reconciliation.

“I’m staying open to see how these negotiations go forward,” Landrieu said. “I’ve not generally been a big supporter, but the Republican Party, the leadership, has really been very, very, very disingenuous in this process.”

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said he doesn’t prefer reconciliation, but it may be the only way.

“I’d like to see as many votes as possible,” he said. “But at the end of the day, with the obstructionism going on at the level that it is, I’m more interested in what’s in the package than I am in the process of how many votes it takes to get it through.”

To be sure, the hints on reconciliation do not signal any kind of ironclad commitment. Democrats remain hesitant about using the procedure, fearful that Republicans will be successful in convincing voters that it is an end-run around the normal legislative process.

However, it is a mixed bag for Democrats in the past few days, as shown by Steny Hoyer’s comments earlier today that “[w]e may not be able to do” a comprehensive health care reform bill. Some moderate House Democrats also voiced disapproval with Obama’s new strategy, including Blue Dog leader Heath Shuler (D-Pa.) and Jason Altmire (D-Pa.). Considering today’s shift of moderate Democratic Senators towards supporting Obama’s plan to use reconciliation, the tougher battle for Obama may now lie with finding 218 votes from the House of Representatives, especially as perhaps as many as 60 Democratic House members are facing defeat in November 2010. The Associated Press outlines the importance of Thursday’s summit and the uncertainty of House passage:

If Obama fails on a comprehensive health care overhaul where Bill Clinton and other presidents failed before him, the chance won’t come around again anytime soon.

The whole endeavor will now rise or fall on Obama’s ability to sell his plan at the summit Thursday, and the reaction from lawmakers and the public in the days ahead.

Some rank-and-file Democrats were openly skeptical that the White House and congressional leaders could pull it off. Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., a moderate who opposed the health legislation when it passed the House, questioned whether Speaker Nancy Pelosi could hang on to the votes that allowed her to get the bill through 220-215 in November. Since then a couple of Democrats have left the House, and Pelosi may also lose votes from anti-abortion Democrats who oppose the less restrictive abortion language in the Senate bill, which Obama kept in his plan.

“Is she going to be able to hold everybody that was for it before?” Altmire asked. “What about the marginal members in the middle who got hammered over this vote and would love a second chance to perhaps go against it?”

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Progressives Turn on White House Over Public Option: “Loser Mentality” – UPDATED

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Top White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs Sparked Infighting with the Progressive Left by Pronouncing the Public Option Dead Today

Tensions have been running high between the progressive left, which is agitating for the inclusion of the public option in Obamacare if passed via reconciliation, and the White House, which omitted any reference to the public option in the 11 page Obama Health Plan issued yesterday. This afternoon, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs sparked an escalation of those tensions with his comment confirming the death of the public option as ““[t]here isn’t enough political support in the majority to get this through.” This is the most explicit the White House has ever been about the lack of hope for the public option under any circumstances, as notes former TPM lefty blogger, now WaPo blogger, Greg Sargent:

At the press briefing just now, Robert Gibbs made the White House’s most expansive comments yet about the push for a reconciliation vote on the public option — and, to put it mildly, supporters won’t find them encouraging.

Gibbs said flatly that the White House doesn’t believe there’s enough support in Congress to get it passed.

Asked directly whether the President’s failure to include the public option in his proposal means he views the public option as dead, Gibbs didn’t exactly dispute this interpretation.

“There are some that are supportive of this,” Gibbs said. But he added: “There isn’t enough political support in the majority to get this through.”

“The President took the Senate bill as the base and looks forward to discussing consensus ideas on Thursday,” Gibbs added, presumably meaning that the public option is not a consensus idea.

It’s unclear why Gibbs is deciding in advance that there isn’t enough support to pass this idea. Momentum has been gathering for days. It’s also very likely that it would continue to gain steam if Obama racks up a victory at the summit and Dems press forward with plans to pass reform themselves via reconciliation.

But Gibbs’s statement seems likely, willfully or not, to slow that momentum in advance

The progressive left has been pushing Democratic Senators to sign a pledge to vote for the public option in recent days, with blogs such as TPM and Daily Kos leading the way alongside political groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (“PCCC”). PCCC’s reaction to Gibbs’ comment was swift condemnation of the White House as having a “loser mentality – but America rallies around winners.” PCCC Spokesman Adam Green’s statement, via Sargent:

The White House obviously has a loser mentality — but America rallies around winners. Polls show that in state after state, voters hate the Senate bill and overwhelmingly want a public option, even if passed with zero Republican votes. More than 50 Senate Democrats and 218 House Democrats were willing to vote for the public option before, and the only way to lose in reconciliation is if losers are leading the fight. That’s why Democrats in Congress should ignore the White House and follow those like Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez who know that the public option is a political and policy winner.”

As the Obama Administration struggles to paint the GOP as ideological obstructionists who refuse to compromise, this burgeoning fight between the progressive left and the Obama Administration is an unwelcome distraction. Indeed, as the White House is now active disagreement with the over 20 Senate Democrats who have signed the public option pledge and the progressive left, the credibility of Administration to attack the GOP as obstructionists could be declining as even the Democrats themselves cannot agree upon what their health care package should consist of. Indeed, Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid’s comment today that the GOP should “stop crying” over the use of reconciliation could perhaps be better applied to the progressive left regarding the public option. Centrists around America remain hopeful that a true bipartisan compromise can be reached between the parties instead of the use of reconciliation on the largest health care reform package in American history.

UPDATE: The New York Daily News picks up on the “loser mentality” slam on the White House by the PCCC:

Liberals took a brutal whack at the White House this afternoon — suggesting “losers are leading” the health care fight — after President Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs declared “there isn’t enough political support” to pass a public health insurance option.

“The White House obviously has a loser mentality — but America rallies around winners,” said Adam Green, a co-founder of the group Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

“Polls show that in state after state, voters hate the Senate bill and overwhelmingly want a public option, even if passed with zero Republican votes,” Green said. “More than 50 Senate Democrats and 218 House Democrats were willing to vote for the public option before.”

Green and company have mounted a surprisingly effective campaign over the last week to get Democratic senators to to sign on to a push to pass a public option through the 51-vote budget reconciliation loophole. So far, 23 senators have backed it, including New York Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer and New Jersey Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg.

“The only way to lose in reconciliation is if losers are leading the fight,” Green fumed about Gibbs and the White House. “That’s why Democrats in Congress should ignore the White House and follow those like Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez who know that the public option is a political and policy winner.”


UPDATE #2: Hotair points out that, putting aside the public option debate, the Number 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer, is publicly stating he’s not sure the House can pass Obamacare. AP has Steny’s comment:

“We may not be able to do all. I hope we can do all, a comprehensive piece of legislation that will provide affordable, accessible, quality health care to all Americans,” Hoyer said at his weekly media briefing. “But having said that, if we can’t, then you know me — if you can’t do a whole, doing part is also good. I mean there are a number of things I think we can agree on.”

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Key Democratic House Member Stupak on Obama’s Health Plan: “Unacceptable” – UPDATED 2X

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Michigan Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak today rejects the Obama Plan, calling it "unacceptable"

In a dramatic statement this morning reported exclusively by Ben Smith at Politico, Democratic House Rep. Bart Stupak rejected yesterday’s 11 page Obama Plan as “unacceptable”:

I was pleased to see that President Obama’s health care proposal did not include several of the sweetheart deals provided to select states in the Senate bill. Unfortunately, the President’s proposal encompasses the Senate language allowing public funding of abortion. The Senate language is a significant departure from current law and is unacceptable. While the President has laid out a health care proposal that brings us closer to resolving our differences, there is still work to be done before Congress can pass comprehensive health care reform.

While most of the media’s focus in the past few days has been on whether Obama and Harry Reid can find 50 Democratic Senators (with VP Biden as tiebreaking vote) to push Obamacare through the Senate using reconciliation, little ink has been spilled regarding whether Speaker Nancy Pelosi can again find 218 Democratic votes for Obamacare. It may be that the more difficult task will be finding the 218 House votes, and Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak’s “unacceptable” comment this morning brings that difficulty into focus. Dick Morris recently wrote about the coming battle to find 218 votes in the House:

We don’t believe that there is any chance of stopping Obama’s renewed push for his horrible health care changes in the Senate. Harry Reid is going to use the reconciliation procedure to jam it through with 51 votes — and he will get them. All the hype about how difficult it will be is to distract us from the real battle which will come in the House.

There, where every member faces re-election, it will be a lot harder for Pelosi to round up the vote she needs. Last time she passed health care by 220-215. This time, a lot of the Democrats who voted for health care are going to be so worried about re-election that they might be induced to jump ship.

Stupak previously led the fight to conform the prior House version of Obamacare to existing law regarding federal funding of abortion and succeeded in forcing through an amendment in the House with tough language disallowing any federal funding of abortion through Obamacare. The Senate bill has much more permissive language regarding such federal abortion funding, and Stupak’s “unacceptable” statement this morning highlights the importance of the abortion policy in Obamacare and could be a sign that the House of Representatives will not pass the Obama Plan without the insertion of Stupak’s prior restrictive language.  The key question in days and weeks to come is whether liberal Democratic House members will buckle under and support the restrictive abortion language Stupak is advocating or risk the defeat of Obamacare in the House of Representatives.

UPDATE: Hotair links to an interesting analysis by Philip Klein on the issue of House passage of Obama’s Health Plan:

Of the 39 Democrats who voted against the House health care bill [in November], 31 of them were elected in districts that went for John McCain in 2008, according to a TAS analysis. One of the Democratic “no” votes, Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama, has subsequently switched parties. Given that a Republican who campaigned on being a vote against the health care bill was just elected to fill the Senate seat once held by Ted Kennedy in a state that went for Obama by 26 points, it’s hard to see why anybody in a McCain district who already voted “no” would decide switch their vote to “yes.”

While Obama won the districts of the remaining eight “no” votes, in six cases, he won by only single digits, making them potentially competitive races this time around. And a closer look at several members who represent these areas are not very encouraging to proponents of Obamacare…

The biggest problem she faces is that President Obama’s proposal maintains the abortion provision in the Senate bill, rejecting Rep. Bart Stupak’s more restrictive language. When the bill passed the House the first time around, 41 Democrats voted for the health care bill only after voting for the Stupak amendment. Any of them could explain switching to a “no” vote on a final bill by citing abortion funding. Stupak himself has said there are at least 10 to 12 Democrats who voted for the bill the first time who would vote against it if it didn’t include his amendment (he reiterated Tuesday morning that the Senate abortion language adopted by Obama was still “unacceptable”). One of his co-sponsors, Rep. Brad Ellsworth, said at the time that he was only able to vote for the bill after the Stupak language was adopted, and he’s now running for Senate in Indiana, where a Rasmussen poll taken last month shows voters oppose the health care legislation by a 23-point margin.

UPDATE #2: CBS News reports on Stupak’s statement calling the Obama Health Plan “unacceptable” and notes Politico’s reporting that Obama and the Democrats do not have the votes to pass Obamacare now.

Michigan Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak, who opposes abortion rights, has released a statement saying the White House health care reform plan is “unacceptable” because it “encompasses the Senate language allowing public funding of abortion.”….

The House health care bill would likely not have passed without the Stupak amendment, which attracted the support of 64 Democrats when it came up for vote.

While the Senate and White House plan bans direct funding of abortions, it allows subsidized individuals to pay for covered abortion services with personal funds.

Meanwhile, according to Politico’s Mike Allen, there are currently not enough votes in the House or Senate to pass a health care reform bill.

“Moderate and endangered lawmakers want the spotlight off comprehensive health reform,” he writes. “Instead, it’s about to take center stage.”

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