In Case You Missed It: reconciliation, not just for healthcare anymore…

April 6, 2010

In Case You Missed It, Roll Call featured an interesting article on the use of the budget reconciliation process to pass other legislation beyond the now-famous healthcare reform bill.

Budget reconciliation” refers to a specific type of bill that instructs the federal government to adjust spending or funding levels on certain programs.  Under the Senate’s rules, the time allowed for floor debate on a reconciliation bill is limited so the process must close with a vote.

Since it’s inception, budget reconciliation has been used a number of times to settle budgetary spending and funding issues.  However, it was never intended to enact widespread policy changes (as was done with the Republicans’ welfare reform in 1996 and Democrats’ healthcare reform this year).

Now the question is whether or not reconciliation is going to be used to pass other policy proposals, beyond healthcare:

Democrats will have to decide soon whether they are going to use reconciliation again this year. If so, they will have to write reconciliation instructions into the new budget they will attempt to adopt later this spring.

…Although Democrats haven’t decided yet what to do, reconciliation could be used to pass such controversial items as President Barack Obama’s proposed new fee on the biggest banks to recoup losses from the Wall Street bailout bill, as well as other tax hikes Obama has proposed on the wealthy that are sure to be opposed by the GOP

….Reconciliation could also be used to pass any number of jobs-related items, such as transportation funding or subsidies for clean energy production. But Democratic aides said they do not expect that a broader energy and climate package would fit in reconciliation.

Using the budget reconciliation process to enact sweeping legislation will surely lead to contentious political bickering.  WIth federal spending spiraling out of control – and Congress way behind schedule to pass a budget – can we afford another political sideshow to hijack the budget process?

Since the leadership in Congress hasn’t yet decided whether or not to use reconciliation for non-budgetary reasons, now is your chance to prevent this misuse of procedural tactics before it happens again.  While elected officials are home for Spring recess, take the opportunity to contact your Representatives and Senators.  Ask them to have a fair and vigorous debate on the budget.

To read more of the article from Roll Call, please click here (subscription required).

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