The Democrats haven’t been shy about giving their opinions on whether it would be appropriate to use “budget reconciliation” to circumvent the filibuster and pass major legislation such as their proposed health-care overhaul. Here are some of the comments they’ve made within the past year:
“I was one of the authors of the legislation that created the budget ‘reconciliation’ process in 1974, and I am certain that putting health-care reform and climate-change legislation on a freight train through Congress is an outrage that must be resisted” (Sen. Robert Byrd, W.Va., the Washington Post, 3/22/09).
“[Reconciliation] was intended for deficit reduction, and it should not be used for other things” (Sen. Mary Landrieu, La., The New Republic, 4/15/09).
“Reconciliation is intended for legislation that reduces the deficit. I have strongly opposed past efforts to use reconciliation to address policy matters” (Sen. Russ Feingold, Wis., Congressional Record, S.4289, 4/2/09).
“We shouldn’t stretch reconciliation for climate change or health care. . . . It would be very hard to justify” (Sen. Byron Dorgan, N.D., CongressNow, 3/17/09).
“I will not accept any last-minute efforts to force changes to health-insurance-reform issues through budget reconciliation, and neither will Arkansans” (Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Ark., Politico, 1/27/10).
“Reconciliation tends to be partisan. . . . It’s not a good idea’” (Sen. Max Baucus, Mont., Congress Daily AM, 3/11/09).
“I don’t believe reconciliation was ever intended for the purpose of writing this kind of substantive reform legislation such as health-care reform” (Sen. Kent Conrad, N.D., Congressional Record, S.3957, 3/30/09).
A little farther back, but still within the past five years, two other senators had something to say about changing Senate rules to allow the defeat of the filibuster with a simple majority vote:
“Mr. President [of the Senate], the right to extended debate is never more important than when one party controls Congress and the White House. In these cases, the filibuster serves as a check on power and preserves our limited government. . . . For 200 years, we’ve had the right to extended debate. It’s not some ‘procedural gimmick.’ It’s within the vision of the Founding Fathers of our country. They established a government so that no one person — and no single party — could have total control. Some in this Chamber want to throw out 217 years of Senate history in the quest for absolute power. They want to do away with Mr. Smith coming to Washington. They want to do away with the filibuster. They think they are wiser than our Founding Fathers. I doubt that’s true” (Sen. Harry Reid, Nev., Senate floor speech, 5/18/05).
“You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating [as] it is, to make sure that there’s a broad consensus before the country moves forward. . . . And what we have now is a president who . . . [h]asn’t gotten his way. And that is now prompting, you know, a change in the Senate rules that really I think would change the character of the Senate forever. . . . And what I worry about would be you essentially have still two chambers — the House and the Senate — but you have simply majoritarian absolute power on either side, and that’s just not what the founders intended” (Sen. Barack Obama, Ill., remarks at the National Press Club, 4/26/05).