Recall back in 2009, when Democrats gingerly toyed with the idea of using the 51-vote budget reconciliation process to pass health care reform in the Senate on a majority-rules basis? Republicans howled. The GOP’s two top budget guys, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) in particular blasted Democrats. Gregg compared it to “running over the minority, putting them in cement and throwing them in the Chicago River.”
With Republicans poised for big gains in November, though, the two of them have had a change of heart. Appearing on CNBC yesterday, the two were asked “Can you use reconciliation to chip away and gradually roll back some of the unpopular Obama policies?”
“Yes, you can,” Ryan said. “Reconciliation is the fastest best path to get there. We do want to use reconciliation, you ultimately have to use reconciliation to get there.”
“Absolutely,” added Gregg. “Reconciliation passes the Senate with 51 votes and it can adjust entitlement programs so they’re affordable.”
In fairness to Ryan, at the beginning of the 111th Congress, he granted that Democrats were perfectly within their rights to use the reconciliation process.
“It’s their right. They did win the election,” he said Ryan. “That’s what I tell all my constituents who are worried about this. They won the election. They did run on these ideas. They did run on nationalizing health care…. They have the votes with reconciliation. They nailed down the process so that they can make sure they have the votes and that they can get this thing through really fast. It is their right. It is what they can do.”
When Dems ultimately decided to use the procedure to modify their health care law, though, Ryan called it a “charade” and an “unprecedented abuse” of the process.
As it turns out, there are strict rules to the reconciliation process that would complicate things for the GOP. The budget rules require legislation passed through reconciliation to be deficit neutral or better. Repealing the budgetary portions of the health care bill, according to CBO, would increase the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars over 10 years.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.