Democrats Mull End Run For Obama Legislation
Unusual rules tactic could trigger partisan brawl
The Washington Times

David R. Sands

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


"Reconciliation" is proving a divisive word on Capitol Hill, where it could trigger one of the biggest partisan brawls of the year.


Despite growing complaints from Republicans and even some Democrats, the Obama administration and congressional leaders are seriously considering bypassing regular legislative rules to push through some of their top policy priorities, including health care and energy reform, by using the parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation and, by doing so, avoiding Republican stalling tactics.


It may sound like an arcane parliamentary debate, but a decision to add Mr. Obama's reforms to the final budget bill that emerges from reconciling the House and Senate versions would eliminate the filibuster -- the minority Republicans' most potent tool to influence bills and slow down the Democratic majority.


In practice, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, would need just a simple majority to pass the bill, not the three-fifths supermajority needed to end a filibuster. Democrats have a working majority of 58 seats.


"Oh, I love 51 compared to 60," Mr. Reid said Thursday when asked if he was considering putting the administration's energy cap-and-trade bill on the budget reconciliation measure. "We certainly know that it is an alternative."

For those who do not understand, what is said here is that Harry Reid can make all of Obama’s agenda part of a reconciliation bill that has already been passed and only needs 51 votes to make it law by passing the only check and balance left to the Republicans --ss the filibuster.  So that even with conservative Democrats siding with Republicans are not enough to force debate and scrutiny of any one of Obama’s trillion dollar programs.  


Office of Management and Budget chief Peter R. Orszag declined to swear off the reconciliation route when testifying before the Senate Budget Committee last week while saying the Obama administration preferred to use the regular legislative process.


"We have to keep everything on the table," Mr. Orszag said. "We want to get these important things done this year."


If it remains on the table, though, Mr. Orszag and Mr. Reid are guaranteeing themselves a nasty fight.


"I really do hope we follow the regular order around here," said Sen. Mark L. Pryor, a centrist Democrat from Arkansas.


Courtly, soft-spoken Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, told the Dow Jones News Service there would be "unholy hell unleashed" if the Obama health care package were tacked onto the budget bill.