Look who’s suddenly all for passing things in the Senate with 51 votes.
In a new column entitled “Democrats can’t filibuster ObamaCare repeal,” Karl Rove argues that Republicans can use the budget reconciliation process to repeal the health care law with 51 votes. That’s the filibuster-proof process that allowed Democrats to tweak revenue and spending measures in the greater health care law, which Republicans at the time compared to Chicago-mob style politics.
On March 1, 2010 Rove himself called that “changing rules midstream.”
This sort of procedural hypocrisy is basically what you’d expect — and you can expect more of it if Republicans keep the House and take control of the Senate. If they control both chambers and the White House in 2012, expect them to take full advantage of the process.
But there’s a catch.
The rules governing reconciliation hold that any legislation that avoids the filibuster must directly effect revenues and spending, and must lower the deficit. To use it honestly, Republicans would have to exempt some of the good stuff — the pre-existing conditions discrimination ban would still exist — but mostly they’d have to repeal spending measures: the politically popular stuff. Either that or they’d have to break the rules.
Here’s what Rove says about that. Under reconciliation, Republicans could “reduce mandatory spending on insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion. These two items make up more than 90% of spending in ObamaCare.”
Rove notes, as he did during the debate over health care reform last year, that the regulatory side of the bill would probably have to stand. He cites his colleague from the Bush years, Keith Hennessey, as saying that Republicans shouldn’t get distracted by the small stuff. “Mr. Hennessey believes that these are “strategically unimportant” items. He says the goal should be to repeal ObamaCare’s big cost-drivers, and reconciliation provides the tool to do it.”
Rove joins health care reform and reconciliation foe, former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), in pulling this abrupt about-face. Over time, expect more and more Republicans to hop on this bandwagon. At least unless the polling changes.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.